At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 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? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
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.’”
What comes from extreme piety? In all our readings this week, a distinction is made between spiritual and material nourishment. It would be easy to miss the similar contrasts between worship of the institution and of God, the creator, provider, and nurturer. The movement of the Holy Spirit is often only revealed or “glorified” by our actions, prompted by repentance, or change of heart and mind. It is neither automatic or transactional, nor reserved only for those who claim their worthiness with evidence of material abundance, essentially saying, “Look at how ‘blessed’ I am!”
Evidently, “prosperity preaching” is not necessarily a modern thing, and neither are the motives for it, nor has it become any less disdained, especially by those who comfortably feast on actual food. During Lent, we take some time to examine the contents of our “essential vitamins,” or fertilizer or, more precisely, spiritual food. At the same time, we are meant to recognize that choosing to fast is much easier to do on a full belly. And those who have no choice but to pray most for physical nourishment are no more or less obligated to sacrifice than those of us for whom it is optional.
The year 2010 was a Lectionary Year C, when Matt Skinner wrote this reflection on today’s Gospel right before the tragic earthquake in Haiti. Today, the man-made disaster in Ukraine reminds us again of “the exigency of our condition,” and that suffering in this life is not God’s punishment, and therefore not prevented by privilege or performative piety.
The 7 Deadly Social Sins were originally delivered in Westminster Abbey on March 20, 1925, by an Anglican priest named Frederick Lewis Donaldson and then attributed to Gandhi, who printed them in his newspaper, Young India.
PRAYER AND ART
An invocation of Christ’s name and presence, The Jesus Prayer, here in Ukrainian, is meant to be recited in repetition as a form of meditative prayer. Some Christians use it in conjunction with a breath prayer, breathing in as they say internally, “Jesus, Son of God,” and breathing out on “have mercy.”
An interactive meditation on suffering — and our response.
The Peace of the Wild Things by Wendell Berry. The divine nature of all that requires no human intervention can be our model.
Where is God when we suffer? Sundays at 10am, join Discovery for a series exploring the book of Job and discuss how the story of one man who lost it all speaks to us today. This week, Summerlee Staten moderates a discussion with the Discovery community.
Mondays at 5:30pm, join Dr. Kathy Bozzuti-Jones for The River: Poetry and Practice as she leads mindfulness practice, reflects on a contemporary poem, shares how poetry can be used on your spiritual journey, and provides questions for ongoing reflection.