I have a little dog, a Yorkie named Kylie. She is full of energy. She loves to chase her ball (which is a little red heart). At times, she sits at my feet making the sweetest whimper; she wants me to throw the ball. I see the little red object across the room.
I respond like a human – I point my finger at the ball and say, “Get your ball.”
Kylie responds like a dog – she looks at my pointing finger.
The little dog fixates on my pointing finger and misses the ball at which the finger points; the dog literally misses the point!
In the days of Jesus, people had so fixated on the Temple that they missed the greater reality and truth to which the Temple points – the presence of God. In the days of Jesus, people had become so obsessed with Israel that they missed the point of Israel’s purpose in the world, to bring the presence of God to all people.
In our day, we can be so fixated on the church that we miss the purpose of the church, to be a community that receives, shares, and extends the presence of God. If this happens, we miss the point.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus passed a fig tree that has missed the point of what it means to be a fig tree – the tree had no figs (Matthew 21:18-20). In this event, Jesus gives us an action parable with a clear meaning – don’t miss the point; you are to be fruitful, to partner with God in his purpose in the world.
In three parables following the story of the fig tree, Jesus makes the point – be fruitful:
First, faithful followers produce fruit (Matthew 21:28-31). The faithful son is not the one who makes promises and fails to deliver. The good child, despite reluctance or fear, actually works in the vineyard. How can you and I do this? Try this prayer at the beginning of the day, “Lord, where is your vineyard today? Lead me there.”
Second, our faithful God expects fruit (Matthew 21:33-41). God is invested in you. He partners with you. He expects a crop of fruit. In Jesus’ story the wicked workers in the vineyard wanted all the blessings (the fruit) for themselves. A righteous worker shares the blessings with others. How can we do this? Here is another prayer, “Lord, what blessing can I give away today? Empty my hands.”
Third, God’s partners faithfully cultivate fruit (Matthew 21:43). Jesus looked at the leaders of Israel and the Temple and said that God would take it all way from them and give his Kingdom “to people who will tend its sweet fruit.” How can we do this? Here is one more prayer, “Lord, what fruit do you want to nurture in me, today? I am ready to grow.”
Prayer for Holy Week: Lord, keep my life on point – to advance your purpose by bearing the fruit of your presence in my life and my living.
- Where is the vineyard today? Send me.
- What blessing can I give? Prompt me.
- What fruit will you nurture in me? I’m yours.
And, Lord, I trust your promise, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22)
Copyright, 2014 © Richard Leslie Parrott