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“The Helpers”

Sermon: “The Helpers”

Rev. Glenn G. Grant

Kirkridge Presbyterian Church

Transcription from March 20, 2022

Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.

In our lesson from Luke this morning, we have the parable that Jesus tells his followers about the landowner that comes and tells the gardener about cutting down this fig tree. And anytime we have a parable in the gospels. We really need to decide who in this parable we are, you know, and a couple things we need to remember in this is that we have to think about this parable with that other thing in our brains from the scripture’s about, you know, you’re the fruit you must go and bear fruit. You're the root of the vine. And so here, we've got this fig tree that's not bearing fruit. So, there is the background that works in our heads as we're going through this parable and trying to figure out who we are.

Of course, we're pretty quick to figure out that the landowner might be God. And if we're honest with ourselves, we're afraid that we might be the fig tree. You know, we might be the ones that aren't bearing fruit. And we probably pretty well assume since Jesus is telling this story, that Jesus is the gardener that pleads for a second chance for this fig tree. Now, I don't know how many people have seen a fig tree. It's not really a tree. It's a lot of shoots coming up from a common place and you get these nice big leaves.

Uh, you know, it's, it's not by accident that the story of the garden of Eden, often think about fig leaves, but this fig plant isn't bearing fruit. And so, the landowner says, why is it wasting space after three years it still hasn't given us a fig!

Well, We used to live in the middle of orchards or in an area with a lot of orchards. And they would tell you that you didn't expect to harvest apples until three years after the orchard was planted. Now they're not planting seedlings (indicates tiny seedling). They're planting seedlings (indicates much taller tree). And it wasn't until at least three years after that, that you would start to harvest apples.

So, a fig tree or a fig bush, whatever you want to call it, was not a whole lot different. When you first planted it, it didn't give you much, over time it would get to give you more and more figs. But in any case, this particular one, the landowner notices hasn't, three years he has been coming by and there hadn't been a fig on that tree. So, he wants the gardener to cut it down and plant another one. And of course, the gardener says, let me first dig a trench around it and put fertilizer on it.

Now, fertilizer wasn't job's plant spikes. Fertilizer came from the animals. And there's one thing about fertilizer we know is that if you've ever been downwind from a cattle farm, there's an odor to it. And it's not necessarily what most people think of as a pleasant odor. Although I can tell you, I much prefer the, that odor to some of the chemical fertilizers. But we've got this gardener that says, let me first go through this extra work and I'm going to dig a trench around it and I'm going to put fertilizer on it. And we'll give it another year and if it doesn't start to produce, then we'll, then you can cut it down.

And I would say that sometimes we have to think about the fact that as the fig tree, the one that's not producing fruit, sometimes we need a little manure put on us.

I actually considered, having my sermon title, being shoveling manure. I was being good. I kept it as manuer.

And anybody that's ever shoveled manure knows that's also not all that pleasant a task. So you've got the gardener who is doing this unpleasant task of first of all, digging in hard soil. Second of all, shoveling manure for the sake of something else, not for their own sake, but for the sake of that fig tree.

And I say that we need to think about who we are in a parable. Yes, there are times that we are the fig tree, but there are times that we are called upon to be the gardener. Think about that. There are times we are called to be the gardener. We are, the one that is going to have to do the work of getting out the shovel, digging the trench, shoveling the manure, dealing with all that, that entails.

And of course, you know, the manure is never right next to the tree. You have to go and get that from the barn and haul it up to where the tree is. So, you've got to haul that manure. You've gotta shovel it. You've gotta get it in the ground. You've gotta mix it with a soil. And we are called to do that work for others so that they can bear fruit.

We are called to do it so others can bear fruit. As disciples of Jesus, we're supposed to be doing what Jesus did. So if we think that Jesus was the gardener, then at times we have to be the gardener and we have to be the ones that shovel the manure. Now, when was the last time you had a pastor tell you that you had to shovel manure?

But think about it. We have to be willing to feed and take care and tend the plants so that they can bear fruit. And those plants are, are friends and our neighbors that may not be bearing fruit.

Before Debbie and I started having children. We had that discussion that I hope every couple has before they have children. What are we going to do? If our child shows a particular talent in an area, what are we willing to give up to nurture that?

Now think about it. What are we willing to give up to nurture a particular talent in our child. And some of us have been through that. Some of us are still going through that, but what are we willing to give up to nurture that in our child?

And then let's bring it into the context of a church congregation. Where every child that's baptized, we answer the question. We say that we are going to do everything in our power to help raise that child, to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior. So we are putting ourselves in a place corporately as parents to that child.

What are we willing to do to nurture that child and their talent, God given talents to make them so they can bear fruit? What are we willing to do? Are we willing to put our hands on the shovel and dig the trench? Are we willing to haul the manure from over there to over here so that this child can bear fruit?

There is one more place that we can put ourselves in the parable. And yes, folks, sometimes we need to be the manure. We need to be the manure. We need to be that which nourishes we need to be that which maybe at times doesn't smell real good and nobody wants to touch or step in. But we need to be available to nourish.

We were listening to an interview on NPR this morning, and I honestly, I can't remember the author's name they were interviewing, but she wrote a lot of children's books and she herself had had a very tough time in childhood having been continuously sick, her father had run off and left she and her mom and, you know, on and on, she was small for her age because of her ongoing illnesses and constant bouts with pneumonia.

But she talks about going back and using all that smelly, dirty stuff in her childhood as a source for her writing children's books. And that she could use that to help children realize that they can get through things and they are okay. And they will be okay. And in this interview, she even talked about, uh, the book Charlotte’s Web. because somebody had asked her at one of her speaking engagements about writing about sad stuff in her life. And she asked these 900 students that were there. How many of 'em had read Charlotte's Web? Most of the hands went up.

How many of you cried when Charlotte died? Most of the hands stayed up. And she says, yeah, most of 'em have read it more than once. Most of 'em have read it more than once. Why? And she actually asked one student why they had read it more than once. And she said, because I know when it gets to the end, it's still gonna be alright. And I know that I'm going to be alright.

She used the fertilizer of her life to help fertilize others and to feed them and to help them know they were gonna be all right. And that's exactly what Jesus is doing in the gospel. He is telling people that they are going to be all right, knowing that he is going to be sacrificed as fertillizer

Knowing that he has been trying to feed them all along and nourish them so they can go and bear fruit.

And then he's also knowing that he's gonna be calling his disciples to go and do the same thing.

So what do we do? Who were the helpers in this? You know, Fred Rogers always said, who were the helpers look for the helpers. Think about the people that fertilized you as you were growing up. Think back, some of us can remember a particular teacher or a Sunday school teacher, or maybe it was an aunt or an uncle or a neighbor. Who fertilized you to help you become the best you could be.

And then there's a little more difficult thing to try and think about. Who have you been that person for?

We've got a few teachers here and I would bet you that they don't know how many people they were the fertilizer for. because it's only a rare occasion that somebody comes back and tells you that, right.

Once in a while you find out a different way because a past student will come and greet you at Kroger or something along those lines. But who have you been the fertilizer for? And if you can't think that you have been fertilizer for anybody, it doesn't mean that you aren't doing it.

It doesn't mean you're not doing it, but it might mean that you need to think about doing it more. Maybe be a little more conscious about how we are helping. How we are being the helpers, how we are being that gardener that is willing to dig the trench and move the fertilizer and nourish that tree so it can grow and produce fruit.

And that is the challenge that we are given is to be that gardener. And yes, even to be the fertilizer.


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