Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
This Sunday we will hear this parable about one such sad fig tree. The owner of this unproductive plant suggests to the gardener that it be cut down because it is wasting valuable land. The gardener advocates for applying special care and attention to the tree to see if it will be coaxed into production. He agrees that if his efforts fail and there are no figs in a year, he’ll chop it down.
It seems to me that Lent provides us with a similar opportunity to pause and evaluate the unproductive trees in our lives. We are given 40 long days to ask ourselves questions like: What parts of our ministries are not bearing fruit? Are we being called to give more attention to the struggling parts of our lives? Is it time to cut our losses and stop giving energy to a project/relationship/program that will likely never produce fruit? Is there an area where an adjustment to how we think or act might invite new growth?
The Forward Movement board and staff spend a good deal of time in such examination of this special ministry we are stewarding. We constantly ask ourselves if our resources align with our mission statement “Inspiring Disciples, Empowering Evangelists.” Is what we are offering still relevant? Are we making tools that are easily accessible by a variety of audiences? Are we keeping up with modern technology so that we remain current? Are our books, videos, conferences, and programs bearing fruit in the church and the world?
This is the holy work God is calling us to as a board, as churches, and in our lives. Like a gardener who carefully tends his plants, God compels us to carefully prune and patiently wait for the fruits of our work, cutting back here, adding soil there.
I hope you will consider joining me in this important work of evaluation this Lent, that we may all find abundance in the gardens of our lives. Together, may we find that God is not bent on destroying figs, but on loving them and watching them thrive.
Yours in Christ,
Anne Schmidt is the Forward Movement Board Chair and Director of Evangelism and Welcoming Ministries at Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, affectionately called “The Fig” by many of its members.
Today’s Flash Sale: Acts to Action
Jesus’ first disciples and modern-day Christians face the same question: How do we share the good news of Christ that we have experienced with the people we meet in the course of our daily lives? The Book of Acts details how the early disciples overcome the challenges of spreading the gospel in the midst of failing institutions, theological differences, and widespread uncertainty. With a focus on Acts Chapter 8, editors Susan Brown Snook and Adam Trambley and contributors from across the Episcopal Church discuss how these lessons from Christ’s earliest followers apply to the mission Jesus still gives us today: to be his witnesses in our churches and neighborhoods and to the ends of the earth. The authors explore essential elements of church mission, including worship, proclamation, loving and serving, repentance, and knowing the community. Framed by reflections from church leaders Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Gay Clark Jennings, the book provides encouragement and practical suggestions to help individuals and groups move from Acts to action.
Contributors include: Joseph Alsay, Carrie Boren Headington, Frank Logue, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, Steve Pankey, and Holli Powell
*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time