Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel According to LUKE 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 13:2 He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 13:4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." 13:6 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. 13:7 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?' 13:8 He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 13:9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

The Gospel of the Lord . . .

"One Degree to the Cross – With Jesus"

In the Gospel Lesson we heard -- Jesus is telling the people that bad things don't always happen to people because they are bad or sinful. Instead, Jesus says, "Stop thinking this way!!" Bad things don't happen to people because they have been bad! God doesn't work that way, and if you think that he does, your just plain wrong! On the other hand, we should observe that Good things don't necessarily happen to us when we're good. Oh, we might receive some goodness in our lives, but we can just as easily suffer – even though we have been saints!!

"So what's the point of being good then??" we might ask. "Why strive to do good things? Why go the extra mile or make the sacrifice of our time or money or risk anything if there's no guarantee we'll get some good coming to us if we do these things??" I'd venture to say, God would agree with our reasoning on these points. But the getting of things and the granting of "divine favors" is not what it's all about. If you hope to get by giving, then you have missed the point. Because our faith does not teach that we get anything by what we do! Instead, We receive God's love and are given the blessed promise of Eternal life because God has already accomplished this for us!

There is no favoritism and God is no respecter of persons. Our hope is not in what we have done, nor are the promises of prosperity, or happiness, or health granted to us because we seemed to have gained some higher standard of living for ourselves. It is not because we are long term members of this particular outstanding congregation in the Holy City of Emmitsburg (Even though being a member here at Elias is a pretty good bragging right!!)

Nevertheless, . . . we are no better and no worse than someone from California or Texas, or China, or the Soviet Union. You or I could have been born to a poor family in India, who become dispossessed of their land and be forced to beg for our food or have to fight for a place to sleep safely on a sidewalk at night. We would be no better and no worse in God's sight.

But having considered our position in this life. What is it that gives us hope if we cannot improve our own lot before God in this life?? What gives us motivation to strive on to live a godly life? . . . Why try to walk the dark road to the cross with Jesus during this time of LENT? What difference does it make?

. . . . . .The difference is that Christ has gone before us. Jesus has blazed the trail to eternal life and has called us to follow him.

----- "OK, so we should follow Jesus. Being a follower of the Savior of the world generally entails that we be generally good persons, (Wouldn't you agree?) We try to be generally good, because Jesus did good things for many needy people, from Luke's account it is quite clear that Jesus cared for the poor and continually reached out to the sick.

"OK, we get that part. But why follow him down the dark and dangerous road to the cross. What's that going to prove??" Is there something meritorious about side-stepping the broad and easy way and instead, having to work hard to go down the loathsome path that leads to "the place of the skull"??"

Honestly, I can't really answer that. But what I do know is that right here right now, we are standing in a kind of darkness. Our world is filled with gloominess -- sadness and suffering are all around us. There are 364 degrees of sad stories. 364 degrees of Tragedies are all around us at any point in time, unless we keep our head in the sand, and do not hear or not see that evil is hard at work – evil is unrelenting in its work of destroying lives, such as the work of these horrible terrorists who have killed and maimed innocent people in Spain this past week.

There are also the tragedies of our families, like when one spouse cheats on the other, or when a child runs away from home because he or she does not feel understood, and the fears that your child can be so easily seduced and enslaved by drugs and then there's the incessant rise in crime that follows addictive behaviors of all kinds. 364 degrees of discouragement surround us at any time of the day or night.

***! But there is ""1 degree"" that leads to the cross of Jesus.

We don't so much need to fear entering the road of the cross with Jesus as we need to fear remaining motionless in the 364 degrees of this present state of life in the world!!

As I have thought about stepping out in faith with Jesus, and how it might sound unattractive – (after all, who really desires to journey to a crucifixion) – I then remembered that ‘this world' also has ways of demonstrating how cruel and gruesome we can be to one another. And then I remembered what Jesus is saying in this lesson – God has not abandoned us to what we may think that we deserve!!!!! God loves us and has come to show us a better way.

That is the way of the cross!! Yes, The cross leads to death and suffering, yet it is not we/us who suffer – it is GOD!@! And this is the miracle of the journey. We follow Christ in the way of the Cross – and he leads us through death and into the resurrection!@! This is the hope of all who journey with Jesus and this is why we remain focused on walking with Jesus for forty days in Lent. WE ARE NOT WITHOUT HOPE!!!

So if you are realizing, or thinking to yourself. "My God, I have not even taken the first step and we are already supposed to be half way there!" Consider that maybe you have traveled more than you think – but just need to recognize the scenery that has already gone by.

If you were saddened by the mangled train cars and disturbed by the men and women who lay dead, and dying, or who were injured or crying after last week's terrorist attack – then you were feeling what God felt and must have been there with God in that place. . . . . . Only remember to pray.

If you have taken time to notice the clover greening as it grows in some small crack in the sidewalk outside of your home, then consider that to be something that God showed you on the way with Jesus, the cry of God's CREATION is for life!! If you have kneeled with your child as he or she prepared for sleep, and prayed that the family dog or cat would be well or if you hugged your teenager before they left for school one day last week. Then perhaps you felt the hand of Jesus joining in that prayer or in that embrace.

Sometimes journeying with Jesus doesn't require us to have two good legs. Maybe all that is required is a strong spirit and a willing heart == God does the rest.

Don't give in to despair! No matter how small the step – have faith that God can and will carry you in the way He would have you go. Believe in God, believe in the miracle of his abiding presence always. For Christ has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. God is faithful.

Let us Pray

Lord Jesus Christ, we want to walk with you every moment of every day. Inspire our hearts, enable us to serve you always, praying for those who persecute us. Bring us to know your glory now and forever.


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