February 28-Third Sunday in Lent

Reading 1:  Reading 2:  Reading 3:  Reading 4: 
Isaiah: 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-8 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9

By Benjamin D. Cowan

Luke 13:1-9

In the gospel reading this week, Jesus is told of the gruesome deaths suffered by several Galileans at the hands of Pilate. In hearing this, Jesus discerns two things about those who are giving the account: 1) a belief that the Galileans deserved what happened to them because of their sins, and 2) an assurance of their own piety. In the culture of Jesus, the Galileans were considered to be the lowest group of Jewish people and viewed as the lowbrows of Jewish culture. In the minds of those telling the story, the Galileans by nature were already impious, unlike themselves, and got what they deserved. To this, Jesus responds by asking them if they really believed that they were more holy than the Galileans? He also tells them explicitly that they are equally sinners as the Galileans. To drive the point home, he links the tragedy of the Galileans death with the tragedy of the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam collapsed. Jesus does this to point out their hypocrisy. When a tragedy took place in the southern part of the nation, no one assumed that the people were impious but when it takes place in the northern part, the assumption immediately went to them being sinners. Once again, Jesus calls his hearers not to be zealous about the speck in another person’s eye but to remove the plank from their own (Luke 6:42). The first five verses are very relevant to the times we live in. How many of us have and continue, consciously and unconsciously, to judge others who are different than our own culture? How many people look down upon people from the Southern parts of the US as uncultured and ignorant? How many people view Californians as lazy or New Yorkers as lacking emotional kindness? The text speaks also to how as a nation in the US people interact with the various cultures. How often do people cross the street at night to avoid walking near a Black male because of assumptions of Black males as criminals and sexual predators. This story also parallels the public representations around various police killings of unarmed Black people in the US. In the public spectacle surrounding the incidents, how often does it come down to the assumption that innately the Black person deserved to die because there is something intrinsically evil or up to no good based on the color of skin? This also is seen in how our media and politicians vilify and dehumanize immigrants and people of the Islamic faith. Jesus in the text, points out the commonness of humanity, that we are all guilty of sin, no more or less than our neighbor. Instead of trying to affirm our piety at the cost of another, we are called to live a life of love and care for each other. This becomes the point of the parable that ends this pericope. The gospel reading concludes with a story that illustrates humans often trying to bring forth judgment against others, without understanding the circumstances surrounding the individual. In the parable, the gardener informs the one who wants to destroy the fig tree that is failing to yield fruit to give it time because it needs to be probably cared for and fertilized. In other words, there is hope for even the worst situation when properly cared for and cultivated. In this text, we are called to examine our lives to see if we are being like them telling Jesus the story of the Galileans selectively judging people who are different. Or like the gardener? Our call is to be like the gardener and participate in nurturing and helping individuals and society as a whole to reach its potential good!

Isaiah 55:1-9

The reading from Isaiah continues the theme of being like the gardener by reminding us that God is always trying to lure us to the good. If we will embrace with our whole beings, the ways of God; if we will incline our ears to hear, if we will seek the face of the LORD, then we can truly live. This passage is not a promise of prosperity in the sense of the prosperity gospel, but a reminder that through our journey—God will be with us to give us wise counsel to live in the face of whatever—good or bad that may come our way. The reminder of David, shows a life that had high points and low points, but through it all, God was there as his gardener—in the face of multiple possibilities, God was luring him towards that which would maximize him being David.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

The Pauline passage continues the theme of the first five versus of Luke. Namely, we are called to not to assume our own piety because of being Christians and/or associating with the church, but piety is something that is to be lived out. We are called to cultivate a life of commitment to God in action like the gardener. Paul exhorts us to pay attention to the generations before us and gain wisdom from their experiences.

Psalm 63:1-8

The psalm calls us to worship God for who God is, a God of steadfast love and wise counsel. Let us, like this psalmist, sing of the love of God and be grateful for God’s lure. Let us share testimonies to each other of how the wisdom of God has enabled us to live. Let us commit ourselves in prayer and action to seeking the Lord, realizing that we are truly alive when we are in relationship with God. As the old confession states, “the chief end of human beings is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever” because as Irenaeus once wrote, “The glory of God is human beings fully alive!”