Is This Our Year?

I’ve been thinking for awhile about a story from the Bible and the warning Jesus gave to the people of his day. It was on my mind again this morning, then when I saw the Word of the Day ChallengeWARNING – well, this is the perfect prompt for sharing my thought!

In Luke Chapter 12 + 13 Jesus gives various signs of “the end,” and tells the disciples they need to be ready, watching, and doing the will of their heavenly Father when the Master of the house returns. Then he tells them this parable of the fig tree:

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

Luke 13: 6-9

The owner of the vineyard took note of this tree that wasn’t bearing fruit in its season. In fact, it hadn’t given any fruit at all for three years. So he said, in effect, “This tree is taking moisture and minerals from the soil, plus the time we’ve already spent on it, and giving us nothing in return. Chop the thing down and let’s use the space for a tree that will be more profitable.”

However, the caretaker was loathe to do something that drastic. Perhaps he felt some pity for the tree, having tended it and fussed over it from its days as a promising sapling. “Let me try what I can with aeration and fertilizer for one more year. Then if it doesn’t bear fruit, okay, we’ll cut it down.”

When I read these verses recently, it occurred to me that “this year” Jesus talked about represented the time of his ministry on earth. The few years he spent teaching and preaching to the people, calling them to repent and come back to God. This was Israel’s “year.” This was the time for the Jewish nation to bear fruit. Would they received his message? Would they repent and turn back to God –the One who had delivered them so many times before. God was giving them this one last chance to bear the fruit He wanted to see.

The Apostle John writes that Jesus came to his own, the Jewish people, and “his own received him not.” History records that the Jewish leaders and the mob they stirred up finally had him put to death because they hated his message. And God rejected them; not very many years later He allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed and the Jews carried away as captives, ultimately scattered to the four winds.

Another fig tree scene happened not long before Jesus was crucified. Mark 11:13-21 tells of how Jesus passed by a fig tree, stopped to look for fruit, and there was no fruit on it. So he said to the tree, “Let no man get any figs off this tree ever again.”
The next day, as they passed this tree again, it was in sad shape. Peter, recalling what Jesus had said the day before, pointed out the shriveling tree. “Master, there’s the fig tree you cursed. It’s withered away.”
I doubt his disciples caught the symbolism of the fig tree to the nation of Israel until after the events of the crucifixion and the day of Pentecost. Then they would have understood.

Another comparison came to my mind. I’ll write it and hope that it speaks to you. I’ve been thinking about this last year when COVID has stalked the earth and menaced people all over the globe. A lot of us have had to leave our pursuits – jobs, schooling, arts and entertainment, sports events, even going to the polls – and return to our homes. We’ve written about 2020 as “A year we’re glad to see the end of.” We’re looking forward to a time when Covid-19 has been conquered. When most everyone’s been vaccinated, this giant has been laid low, and we can go back to our normal lives.

But what if this was our “year” to respond to the voice of God. What if this Covid “season” we’re in is that “one more year” God is giving our world, the time we should stop, think about him and his word, think about “the end” when the Master returns?

Think of the great issues of our day. Environmental, financial, political, justice, personal. How they fill our minds and cause us no end of worry. But what if this really was our last year? Not that we can just stop caring, drop every concern, let everything slide. But there’s a bigger picture here we need to consider: are we concerned about, and prepared to face, the most important event in the world?

“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.”

Revelation 10:5-6

Jesus tells us to prepare, to watch and be ready. Just in case this is our Year.

A Few Tears Shed…

Yesterday I wrote about my own health issues and the uncertainty of life. Today I’m shedding a few tears, and yet rejoicing, for a man who’s bravely faced over twenty-four years of uncertainty.

With one last puff, a flickering candle has blown out in this world. We all knew the end was near for blogger Bill Sweeney; he told us that in his last post. Now this morning, With A Heavy Heart, his wife Mary informs us that he’s passed away.

When he was first diagnosed, the doctors gave him about five years. Now, after over twenty-four years of battle with ALS — aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease — this warrior has been called home from the battlefield.

“O Death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?”
I Corinthians 15:55

When he first entered the battle against this foe, he reached out for the hand of God and grasped it, and found it firm to the end. Though Bill slowly lost his physical abilities and was finally completely paralyzed, still he carried on faithfully doing what he could. Via the internet, using a computer program that tracked his eye movements, he continued to share the good news of God’s love and encourage people around the globe.

He inspired us all to be more serious about our beliefs and more faithful to our Lord. All those who’ve read his posts will miss his sensible and gracious thoughts.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

II Timothy 4:7-8

The Small Joys in Our Lives

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is JOY, which is a very fitting word for the season. We’ve been hearing all about joy this past week, as we’ve been listening to Christmas programs put on by various of our parochial schools across North America. Two nights ago we heard the one from Buhl, Idaho; last night we listened to the school program from Lime Springs, Iowa – and after that, Christmas songs by our own school children here.

Though we can’t visit these schools in person to hear the carols and stories told, thanks to the technology of streaming we can get in on the joyful celebration surrounding the birth of Jesus, the hope and light of all the world. We still get a thrill as we hear the children singing the old familiar carols and also enjoy the new ones being introduced each year.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for , behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The angel’s message still circles the globe and floods this old world with hope. God has reached down to man in the form of Jesus Christ; we can be reconciled to our Creator. Also, we now have Jesus’ teachings and example of living in peace with our fellow humans.

Naturally speaking, joy may not be the first word that comes to mind. Because the incidence of COVID -19 has been on the rise in our province, restrictions are tightening up more and more. Families won’t be gathering if private homes are limited to five people at a time.

With more restrictions starting Dec 26th, or traditional Boxing Day sales will likely be rather a fizzle this year. According to space-per-person guidelines, only so many people will be allowed into stores at a time – and if it’s cold enough, folks aren’t apt to stand around outside waiting to get in. Most of us, if we’re honest, will admit that we have enough stuff now, but I hope our merchants can weather this storm. All this gives us a special joy to look forward to next year: the time when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

For us right now, the kitten we found on our doorstep a month ago – such a lively little puffball – has brought many smiles and small joys into our lives. We’re so thankful we discovered him there before Angus could chase him away and/or something awful happened to him.

Tuffy looks quite much like this.
Image by Ben Scherjon at Pixabay

Morning Musing on Religion

Every morning when I turn on my browser, I’m offered a selection of interesting articles from various sources, “Recommended by Pocket.” Yesterday a headline in one of these boxes caught my eye, and I see it again this morning. (Click here to read it.)

Why Religion Is Not Going Away and Science Will Not Destroy It

A very interesting question indeed! It’s bound to stir up some thoughts in most readers. Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

Seeing this headline, my first thought was on the spiritual side. Our Creator, heavenly Father, the One we call God, the Eternal One. Science can’t make him disappear. So my answer is:
“As long as our Creator keeps reaching out to us, his creation, and touching our lives – often in miraculous ways – there will still be believers. Those of us who have heard his voice, felt his touch – yes, some have even seen him – can never deny the reality of his presence.” I’ve heard thousands of examples!

This morning when the question popped up again, I looked at the world RELIGION and thought:
“Religion won’t ever go away because religion divides people, and people like to be divided.”

Specifically, people like to be divided by “I’m on the RIGHT side and you’re on the WRONG side.”

Read history. Any factor that can divide people into two groups has been very popular. And religion is so very versatile. Add doctrines, interpretations, attitudes…”And of course God thinks like I do!” Voilà, you have a whole new group that’s righter than all the others. The Southern Believers versus the Central Believers versus the Eastern Believers versus the Western Believers. This sect versus that sect, etc.

Color, gender, family, money, style, ethnicity, nationality, politics, religion. Just introduce any of these factors and you’re apt to get some division. This is the downside of our human nature: feeling that people who don’t think like we do are wrong. Then throw in the media. Propaganda. “We are RIGHT and they are WRONG. We are the faithful; they are the infidels. We’re the ones who want law & order; they are the rebels.” Give both sides guns and they’ll likely start shooting each other.

People won’t soon give up their Rightness for impersonal science.

Our Creator has not designed us to be at each other’s throats; these attitudes don’t please him. When we come to him, and focus on him, we can lose these divisions with their respective animosities. As the Bible states:

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:27-28

“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

– Colossians 3: 9 – 14

John Lennon wrote in his famous song, “Imagine there are no countries, no religion, no possessions…” (One might add, no drugs — another thing people fight over.)

Sounds so idealistic in a song, but would you really want to live in a world like that? And where would we put our human nature, that “being” within us that wants our own space, our own place, our own roots, our own understanding? If it all were wiped out tomorrow, give us a month and we’d have a whole new set of separations.

Removing the spiritual side of us would take out of this world the only thing that can moderate human nature. The only voice that does speak for compassion and peace. Most religions, not matter how off-course or fanatic their followers may get, do hold up kindness and respect as an ideal in relating to fellow human beings. Religion – focusing together in a sincere worship of our Father-Creator – has the best chance of uniting us.

The original article, published in September 2017 on Aeon, was written by Peter Harrison, an Australian Laureate Fellow and director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland.

I didn’t read the article in great detail, but he starts with intellectuals once believing that science would eventually displace religion. However, this hasn’t proved true; religion is alive and well today. (I might throw in the fact here that in recent years a lot of scientists have admitted to some sort of “intelligent design” behind our world.)

He ends his article with an interesting conclusion: If science opposes religion, science will be the loser. So, advocates of science should quit making an “it’s him or me” enemy of religion.

Agreed! The One who created the world with all its marvelous synchronized workings should never be pitted against his creation as “one or the other.” They are in harmony.

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12: 6-7

A Sheep, A Vine, A Candle

If you look in the top left corner of your blog, you’ll see the word Reader. You’ve likely explored this a time or two yourself. Well, I was MANAGING the BLOGS I FOLLOW in my Reader this morning and came across the word METAPHOR. At some point in the distant past, this is one of the TAGS I’ve typed in “To follow.” So I clicked on it now and discovered an interesting article I’d like to point you to.

In this post, titled Christian Metaphors, the writer points out that the Bible has a number of metaphors referring to a Christian, or to Christian life, and gives several illustrations.

For He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Psalm 95:7

Linda in her Bible Study blog writes about another metaphor Jesus used: I AM the True Vine. I think she explains this quite nicely. And here’s one example I found after a quick search:

And he (Jesus) said unto them, “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed: and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was anything kept secret but that it should come (be told) abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

Mark 4:21-22

Jesus chose to speak in parables and metaphors, knowing that only those who were serious about his message would take the time to ponder and get the idea. Thus he says, “If any man have ears to hear…” In other words, if some person is really listening, really wants to hear the truth, he’ll hear it.

Image: Briam-Cute — Pixabay

An Interesting Tidbit

Ragtag Daily Prompt: TIDBIT
Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: OCTOTHORPE

Thanks to M-W, we have this tidbit of information today: the proper name for this critter #, aka a hashtag/ pound/ number sign, is OCTOTHORPE.

Another tidbit, while we’re at it: this / is a VIRGULE. Commonly known as a slash.
According to Lexico, virgule comes from the French word ‘comma’, and originally from the Latin virgula.

Today was a day of small things for me; I listened in on two church services and both pastors talked about small or simple things. In fact both of them stressed that Christian life doesn’t have to be complicated.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that one of the newer translations paraphrases as: “God made man simple. All of his complex problems are of his own devising.” The KJV text reads: “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.”

Earlier I read — more skimmed, but still — an online article on exercise. Christine Carter writes about how she did simple steps toward getting into shape. Read it here if you like. Her thought: don’t start with an ambition program, like a half-hour jog every morning, but then get weary after a couple of weeks and give up. She rather committed herself to jog for one minute every morning. After a week or so she felt like doing a few minutes more rather than giving up.

This is very much like the FlyLady telling you to start by shining your sink and taking other baby steps. “Don’t try to tackle so much that you crash.” Ms Carter takes the same approach. She repeats a wise thought from the Dalai Lama: “Our goal is not to be better than other people; it’s just to be better than our previous selves.”

And now, in honour of winter’s arrival this weekend, especially the raging blizzard that has descended on us today, I’m going to redo my Header with a wintry scene. One of the sermons we listened to this morning was a wedding here at our church — attendance restricted due to Covid. I hope the bride and groom haven’t spent their first hours together slithering on a snow-drifted highway, just trying to stay on the road!

Friday’s CTV News for Saskatoon has come to pass:
The City of Saskatoon is gearing up for what could be a record-breaking snowstorm over the weekend, which may force residents to ‘stay home for a few days’ and could cause power outages.

Imagine this scene whited out by snow blowing almost vertically and you’ll have an idea what our outdoors looks like today. 🙂