(Image courtesy of isaacsflowers.com)
In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” Jesus answered them, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21:18-22 NRS).
Many times we read this scripture passage in Matthew and wonder just what Jesus was thinking? Why did he expect there to be fruit on a fig tree when it was clearly out of season? Why curse the tree when the tree was not bearing fruit all year round? The fig tree is clearly a metaphor, and when I look at this rose bush on my desk, I see a powerful parallel with our spirituality. Too often we see faith, ours and that of others, in bloom twice a year: Christmas and Easter. They are the two times of the year when we expect to be confronted with Christians doing good deeds in the name of Jesus Christ, and participate in them ourselves. The culture lets its clear preference for private practice of religion be set aside while the country indulges us in our public practice of mission, ministry, and loving others as disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s a time to see faith in bloom, to see our belief bear fruit in the community. Then what?
Christ does not want our faith to be seasonal. He did not call us to be productive only twice a year. We are called to be disciples every day, to be beautiful, blooming examples of faith all year long. As the text says, Christ is hungry, especially for the fruit of faith, but so is the world. Our faith, when in bloom, can be a powerful force. As Christ says, it can move mountains. Whether those “mountains” are made of prejudice, hatred, apathy, violence, addiction, etc., we have the ability through our God who strengthens us to make real and lasting change in this world. But it cannot be limited to once or twice a year. It cannot be seasonal. It must be every day; a radical faith that does not “go out of season.” The way to have that kind of ever blooming faith is to fertilize our lives with nutrient rich activities and relationships. Do you feed your faith with daily scripture, weekly worship, and enduring relationships within the Body of Christ? If not, you will find that your faith withers. Christ is the water that makes our faith grow and the ground of our hope. You cannot go on every day without refreshing yourself in God. And you must, because this world so desperately needs to see the glory of God embodied in us.
Lord Jesus Christ,
With your word you can heal, save, and condemn our sinful actions.
You call us to you, to do great works in your name.
Help us to feed our faith and grow it stronger each day.
Do not let our faith bloom only occasionally.
By your Grace, we can be a part of the garden of believers,
Exemplifying the beauty of salvation we find in you.
May the words of our mouths and the deeds of our hands,
Bring you honor and glory all our days.