One More Year of Grace
New Year’s Eve
One More Year of Grace
1. Be thankful this year
2. Be fruitful this year
Text: Luke 13:6-9
December 21, 2012. I promise this is the last time I mention the Mayan calendar in a sermon for a very long time . . .
There were more than a few people that thought the world would end on December 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar expired. I personally know several people that stockpiled caches of food and supplies and weapons in case some Hollywood version of Armageddon broke out. I know people that worried about this for weeks leading up to the date, to the point of being afraid to drop their kids off at school. I know a person that didn’t really know what to believe but made a fortune off of a blog about 2012 and the end of the world.
Yet here we are 10 days later and a little less than five hours from entering 2013. What have we learned in 2012? Ancient calendars can’t be trusted. The internet can’t be trusted. Only God knows the day or the hour of the end of the world, and our times are certainly in God’s hands alone.
So as we move forward into the year 2013, we’ll turn to Jesus for guidance in Luke 13. There he shares what we can do with One More Year of Grace.
2012 was not a good year for gardening and produce. There was a Florida orange tree that didn’t do so well. This orange tree had every opportunity to grow. Plenty of water was available to this tree. Plenty of food was available to this tree. The sun was shining on this tree on this tree all the time. Yet for some reason this tree didn’t produce any oranges.
On closer inspection though, the lack of growth and lack of production isn’t very surprising. Although water and food were available to this tree in large quantities, this orange tree didn’t take that nourishment in. Thus, the orange tree’s roots were very weak and very shallow. Also, this orange tree was surrounded by weeds. Even if the orange tree took one step forward in growth, the weeds would bring the tree two steps backwards.
This Florida orange tree has had so much love. It has had so much care and attention. It has been given everything it needs. Yet this orange tree produced almost no fruit in 2012! In fact, this tree has been nearly fruitless for three years now!
What a worthless tree! This fruitless Florida orange tree is hopeless! This fruitless Florida orange tree should be cut down! This fruitless Florida orange tree should be tossed into the fire! This fruitless Florida orange tree . . . is you. It’s also me.
Listen to the way Jesus told the parable in Luke 13 to people who thought they were so holy and righteous: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’”
There were some Jews who thought they were very righteous, pious believers. They noted that some people had lost their lives in local tragedies and concluded that they must have been awful sinners. Jesus told this parable to point out that they weren’t as fruitful as believers as they thought they were.
We all are trees. God has been loving and gracious enough to plant us in his own orchard. On the outside, everyone can even see that we are trees in his orchard. “Oh, you are a Christian. You go to Christ the King Church.” They can see that we are God’s trees.
God also offers everything that we trees need to grow. He offers us living water and the bread of life. He offers us the most powerful plant food on the market in his Word and two sacraments. He provides his own Son as radiant Son-light shining on us. On the outside we look to others to be very good trees.
But what does God see? He sees tree that ignore and don’t make use of his plant food. There is unlimited nourishment in the Word of God. Yet somehow we feel like we don’t always need to be nourished.
God also sees weeds growing up all around us. People that are bad influences. Music and movies that are bad influences. TVs and computers that are gateways to countless sins. All these weeds slowly wrap themselves around us with their deadly thorns, hoping to choke the spiritual life out of us.
So as we don’t take in as much spiritual nourishment and S-O-N-light as we need, and as we allow sinful weeds in our lives to choke our faith, should we at all be surprised when we look at our branches and suddenly realize—we aren’t bearing any fruit!
How fruitful was your 2012? Did you serve others as much as you could have? Did you help out everyone you could have? Were you eager to listen and help people? Or were you perhaps short and rude and uncaring a few times too many?
Did you give of your time to the Lord as much as you could have? Did you give of your treasures as much as you could have? Or did you spend your time and your treasures more on yourself when they could have been used to advance the kingdom of God?
Did you share your faith as much as you could have? Did you take advantage of every opportunity? Were you a light shining in your neighborhood and in this community that no one could ignore?
I think we are all realizing that we have not been the fruitful trees that we could have been in 2012. And much like in the parable, we could look back three years and beyond and see that the same is true for most of our years in the past.
So what does God think when he sees such trees that don’t bear fruit? “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” Fruitless trees deserve to be cut down and thrown into the fire. But we’re not talking about roasting S’mores here. Fruitless, sinful trees deserve eternal fires in hell.
Yet look at how the patient caretaker of the vineyard responds in verses 8 and 9: “’Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Such patience! Such love! Such grace!
How loving and patient our God is! As we sinful trees deserve to be chopped down for the lack of good fruits we bear, God is patient and forgiving with us. Couldn’t God see our sins and simply end our lives at any given moment? Shouldn’t God see our sins and simply end our lives at any given moment? Why should he bother letting us live to be 20 or 30 or 50 or 70 years old? Why would he let us live to the year 2012 and why should he let us live to the year 2013?
This is why we call our lives a time of grace. Every moment that we have alive in this earth is a gift of God’s loving grace. Every moment that we have alive in this earth is an opportunity for us to hear of Jesus’ forgiveness and then to believe in that forgiveness. Every moment that we have alive in this earth is an opportunity for us to grow in faith and produce more fruit.
What a patient, loving, and gracious God we have! He has given us a Savior, he has given us faith in that Savior, he continues to be patient and forgive our sins, and he continues to give us opportunities to grow in faith. We can surely say that as we move into 2013, it is One More Year of Grace.
So what does that mean for us? Lots of people make lots of New Year’s resolutions as they move into a new year. Yesterday morning we had a little Bible study on this topic. We noted that people often make resolutions that are almost impossible to keep. “I’m going to run 5 miles every day. I’m going to lose 75 pounds this year. I’m going to read the whole Bible three times.” Often the goals we set are hard to keep. Even the smaller, more achievable New Year’s resolutions are often broken within a few days.
How about we try some more simple and achievable resolutions for 2013 that we will all undertake together. Let’s start with this simple resolution: Be thankful this year.
Our God has been so gracious to us as he has blessed us so much. He patiently continues to forgive our sins day in and day out. Though at times we are weak and feeble trees, and at times even fruitless trees, he has granted us the start of another new year of our lives. On top of all these spiritual blessings God has poured out countless physical blessings. We have wonderful friends and families. We have homes and cars and computers and iPods and Doritos and Diet Coke with a twist of lime. God is so good to us.
Together in 2013 we will strive to be thankful this year. We will thank God more often in our prayers. We will thank God with the way that we live for him. We will thank God in the amount of time we serve him. We will thank God in the amount of gifts we give back to him.
The interesting thing is that the more we keep our resolution of being thankful this year, the easier it will be to keep this second New Year’s resolution: Be fruitful this year.
The more we understand God’s patient, gracious love, the more thankful we will be. And the more thankful we will be, the more we will want to hear about God in his Word and the more we will want to praise our God and show our thanks in worship. And the more we are in the Word of God and the more we are in worship, the more we will feed ourselves. And the more we feed ourselves, the more good fruits we will bear.
Together in 2013 we will strive to be fruitful this year. Fed by the Lord and his Word and sacraments, we will be trees that bear much fruit. We will bear fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We will bear fruits of good deeds, fruits of sharing our faith, fruits of joyfully serving God and others.
2012 was an insanely interesting and unique year. What will 2013 bring? We don’t know. But we do know this: God will still be patient. God will still be loving. God will still be forgiving. And God has given this new as One More Year of Grace. So in 2013, rooted in the Lord, be thankful and be fruitful.
Posted on January 1, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2012, 2013, Church, Fruitful, Fruits, Fruits of the Spirit, Hell, Jesus, Jews, Luke, Luke 13, Mayan Calendar, Mayans, New Year's, New Year's Eve, New Year's Resolutions, NYE, Parable, Parable of the Fig Tree, Parable of the Unfruitful Tree, Parables, Resolutions, Sermons, Thanks, Thanksgiving, Trees. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.