Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
1At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2[Jesus] asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or 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? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
6Then 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. 7So 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?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
A predecessor of mine at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Massillon, Ohio, served as an associate pastor, with the late Pastor Mourice "Mo" White. Pastor White was a very large, strong and vibrant man. During one Lenten season, one of the older, but faithful members of the church came with her husband to an evening Lenten service. As they were leaving the service, the woman somehow fell down the outside flight of steps and broke her hip. For some unknown cause, she did not recover from the hip surgery and died in a few short days. Pastor White stood with the bereaved husband by the casket the night before the funeral.
Many people came to offer their sympathies. Some were saying to the sorrowing husband, "God must of had a plan for this, so accept it." Another said, "It was God's will and we must live by it." Still another said, "Somehow God planned this to test your faith!!" And still another said, "There is a silver lining in every cloud, you will find God's reason behind this eventually.”
Pastor White left that funeral home filled with a very strong emotion of anger at the "babbling", as he put it, he heard that evening. He went to the study and rewrote the beginning of his funeral sermon.
Pastor White began his funeral sermon with this phrase: "My God does not push old ladies down church steps!!!" Then he proceeded to explain that God cannot be blamed or accused for all the brokenness of this world. If God is the author of death, how, how can He be at the same time the author of life as shown through the resurrection we celebrate each Sunday and especially on Easter. Is God the God of the living, or the God of the dead? You cannot have it both ways.
God didn’t intend these things to happen. And we are no better off than those who suffer and die tragic deaths. Death is going to happen. Instead of looking out the window at what is happening in the world, and wondering where God is, focus on that which gives life.
What Jesus is saying is that however you die, it will be the final word if you let it be. But Jesus is not going to get into this argument about DEATH. He is more concerned about LIFE! To Jesus the question is not, “Why do people die the way they do?” but rather, “What are we doing with our gift of life?”
Let us pray: Almighty God, we celebrate the gift of life. May we use this gift to do your will. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen