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“A Season of Repentance”

March 07, 2010

Isaiah 55:1-9 Luke 13:1-9 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Responsive Reading - Psalm 63:1-8 (UMH 788)

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.


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O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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Every year, winter gives way to spring and spring to summer. About this time of year we all begin to grow
tired of winter, tired of the cold, tired of snow, tired of all the bulky layers of clothing and tired of bundling
up every time we want to go outside. We increasingly yearn of the arrival of spring and warmer days and
as the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter, as the daily temperatures begin to rise we are filled
with hope, the hope of spring. At this time of year we also pause to consider our lives spiritually. As we
move through the season of Lent we are invited to take part in a spiritual journey. This is, for the body of
Christ, a season of reflection, a time to consider the past and a time to consider how we will approach the
future. In Isaiah 55:1-9 God invites us to find refreshment, hope, freedom and restoration…
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"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

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2
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
3
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
5
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor."
6
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
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"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God invites us to seek him while he may be found but also to put our sinfulness behind us, to turn away
from those things that draw us away from God and dwell instead on those things that draw us closer to
God.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul calls us to remember that even the children of Israel, who witnessed God’s
power and majesty firsthand, fell away and displeased God.
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For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud
and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3
They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual
rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of
them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
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Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7Do
not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up
to indulge in pagan revelry." 8We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one
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day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were
killed by snakes. 10And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
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These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the
fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13No
temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be
tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you
can stand up under it.

Paul reminds us that even those people who had seen God work in mighty and amazing ways, still had
corruption in their hearts and were removed from the fellowship of God’s people. Our calling is to stand
firm in the Lord, to study and to pray and to remain faithful so that we will not fall when temptation
presents itself. Further, Paul reminds us that God will not tempt us beyond our ability to stand against it.
Whenever we are tempted, God promises to provide a way out if we bother to look for it.

My wife, Patti, has pointed something out to me this last week and I would like to pass this on to you.
Please note that this is becoming one of the most often misquoted passages of scripture. This passage is
often quoted as saying that God will not give us more than we can handle, but it clearly does not say that.
In this passage, God promises that we will not be tempted beyond what we can handle. God promises to
provide a way out of temptation so that we will not fall into sin. God does not promise to protect us from
the everyday tragedies and burdens of life and, in fact, often allows those burdens to crush us enough to
draw us closer to him and to teach us to something. When we are crushed we learn that we cannot stand
alone. We learn that we need to depend upon one another and help one another and, most importantly, we
learn to depend upon his strength instead of ours.

We must be careful not to fall into sin, but sin and its punishment has often been misunderstood and
misinterpreted even in the time of Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 13:1-9, people come to Jesus and tell him a
story about men who were slaughtered by Pilate as they brought sacrifices to the Temple. The assumption
was that for something that horrible to have happened, that these men must have been great sinners because
clearly God was punishing them. Jesus points out that this thinking is clearly wrong…
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Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had
mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than
all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will
all perish. 4Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were
more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all
perish."
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Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on
it, but did not find any. 7So 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?'
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" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears
fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

What Jesus is saying is that bad stuff happens because the world is not a perfect place. Bad stuff doesn’t
always happen simply because the people involved were evil and were deserving of punishment. Our
world just isn’t explainable in terms that are so clearly defined in black and white. Instead, Jesus says that
we are all sinners, we are all fallen, we are all deserving of punishment and we will all die… Unless.

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It is at this point that Jesus tells a story about a fig tree that did not grow fruit. A man had a tree for three
years and for three years the tree took up space and consumed resources such as water and soil and
fertilizer and the labor needed to care for it. After three years, the owner’s patience was at an end and he
determined to destroy the tree and stop wasting resources on it. Instead of immediately doing as the owner
asked however, the gardener asks that he might have one more year. For one more year he will give it
extra patience and extra care, he will aerate the soil and give it extra fertilizer.

The message of Jesus is not that we are sinners who are doomed to destruction, but that we are sinners who
are offered a second chance. God does not destroy all those who are extraordinary sinners but condemns
all sinners to death unless they repent. We remember that repentance literally means to change directions.
Repentance doesn’t mean to simply say, “I’m sorry” and keep right on doing exactly what you were doing
before, but to commit our lives to living differently and moving in a more godly direction.

During this season of Lent, we are asked to spend time in self-examination. To look inward and to
rediscover those places that we have not released and given to God. To admit to our faults and lay our sins
before a holy God and ask for forgiveness and to change directions so that our lives will travel in the
direction in which God has pointed us. Jesus’ parable tells us that we are not doomed to have bad things
happen to us because we are sinners. We are not doomed to die simply because we have fallen and gone in
the wrong direction. Jesus tells us that we have been given a second chance and we are doomed only if we
stubbornly refuse to change directions.

During this season of Lent, we are asked to spend time in self-examination and to transform our days into a
season of repentance. May we all ask God to forgive us for our sins, may we abandon our journey toward
death and instead change our direction so that we may truly walk with Christ.

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You have been reading a message presented at Johnsville Grace and Steam Corners United Methodist Churches on the date
noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor of the Johnsville Parish. Duplication of this message is a
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All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.