Monday, February 25, 2013

The cursed fig tree

Our pastor taught on the fig tree in Mark 11: 12-14.
Side note: When I was little I thought a Fig Newton was a fig.

"On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening."
Later on in verse 20: "As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up."

This passage has always confused me a little. I understood the link to the mostly well-known point of God hating fruitlessness... but it seemed, though I knew this couldn't be the case, that Jesus was lashing out in anger and hunger. Another point that bothered me is that it says right there that it WAS NOT THE SEASON FOR FIGS. I mean, gee whiz. Jesus knew the season for figs. He created the season for figs. So why did He go to it expecting fruit?

One third of the writings of the gospels center around this last week of Jesus' life. Why did the fig tree story even make it in there? And why was it broken up into two parts?

I've never looked any deeper into this passage. I saw it as another of Jesus' miracles in nature (a beautiful flourishing tree withering overnight) and yet another example of unfruitfulness. But that was all.

And so, if you care to read what I learned via our pastor's studies and teachings... read on.

Fig tree start producing fruit buds prior to producing leaves. Thus, a tree in full leaf has (or SHOULD have) ripe fruit. This tree was telling everyone that it was covered in fruit, but a closer look revealed the truth. Although beautiful and vibrant on the outside, a closer look revealed it was useless. It had been able to produce leaves far ahead of its season. Apparently, it had had the advantage in sun, water, and soil, and shelter. There was no excuse for no fruit. And Jesus isn't lashing out under the complaints of an empty stomach. We know He isn't because this would be sin and He lived a perfect life. It's really more like a statement, or maybe a prayer of judgement. "May no on ever eat fruit from you again."

Often in the book of Mark, we have bookends. The fig tree story starts in verses 12-14 and then is finished in verse twenty. In verses 15-19 we get to Jerusalem.
 Ahhhh. Jerusalem. The shining, city on a hill. The hill that housed God's chosen people. The ones that God had planted in the Promised Land...  the land that He had prepared for them with no enemies, good soil and water, and plenty of sunshine. They should be thriving! And they were! The city was famous as was the temple inside the city.  The temple was God's House. The place that everyone, once a year had to come to to make their sacrifices. So many many sacrifices! So many people coming to make those sacrifices! So many leaves on this beautiful fig tree inside this beautiful city on top of this beautiful hill! But Jesus, walking into His Father's house, finds absolutely no fruit. He finds people who claim to be seeing, but are actually blind. They were beautiful on the outside, professing a great godliness with their temple and their unblemished lambs, yet really knowing nothing. And Jesus clears them all out.

The second bookend comes in verse twenty. We see that Jesus' judgement on the fig tree came true. From the roots up, the once thriving tree is dead. It is no longer any use. And like that fig tree, Jerusalem showed that it was useless. And God is putting her aside because His work will no longer be accomplished through her, but through the church.

Which leads to the application part: Am I covered in leaves? Am I advertising that I have fruit, but don't? Have I fooled those who pass me at a distance... yet when anyone truly takes a closer look at my life, they quickly realize I'm good for nothing but the fire? Are you?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Week of Firsts

1) Nemo

Last Friday, a blizzard called Nemo (I'm not sure why the weather people named it after a little Pixar clownfish... because I'm pretty sure that is what most people think of when they hear that name) was about to come roaring into New England. We had heard a prediction of anywhere from 6 inches to 24 inches. We were both so excited about the snow... and then we realized Jim was working Friday night and I was working Friday and Saturday. To make it worse, the hospital called and said, "You can't call in sick, so come with overnight bags so you can work both days." Yay, a slumber party.

Thankfully, God corrected me quickly and made me realize that I was going to be at work, during my first blizzard and away from my husband. That was the plan HE had for the weekend, so get over it, dear one.

In the end, it wasn't so bad. Our house lost power and and Jim was unable to come home Saturday morning do to Nemo still pounding the coast, anyway. So, we worked. And I was able to watch snow accumulate at the most rapid rate I had ever witnessed from the warmth and safety of the hospital. 

2) Sleeping in a hospital bed

Thus, the hospital sleepover. I was imagining a room full of cots, snoring strangers, and a shared bathroom. God was very sweet and I slept in a maternity room. Like a room where moms and their new babies stay. Maternity rooms are very quiet, very clean, and big. AND they have their own bathroom and shower. I kept expecting cots to start being rolled in but I had it all to myself all night. Granted, I still didn't sleep well due to the different atmosphere, but it could have been much much worse. And I tried not to think about all of the bodily fluids I had seen on hospital sheets before I had stripped the beds of said sheets. Hospital sheets just like the ones I was sleeping on. I thought dreamily of bleach and the germ-killing, stain-fighting stuff it was and finally drifted off.

3) Sledding

Sunday morning and there was no church because no electricity means very, very, very cold buildings. Jim had been shoveling people out all Saturday evening, so Sunday, after a few more calls to check on various people, we sledded. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one butt (or two or three) plastic sleigh! Our electricity came on and a few more of our friends came over, relishing the chance for a hot shower and possibly a warm bed. One of them brought his toboggan. Yes. It was awesome.

4) Skiing.

I have been saying, "I'm going to learn. I mean... I'm terrified of the idea but I want to do this!" Admittedly, whenever the chance to do it came up and we were unable to go, I was secretly relieved. A day of looking awkward, falling on my face, and being cold did not sound appealing no matter how cool, "I'm going skiing," sounds. However, there was no backing out this time. I was so nervous and quiet, Jim thought I was upset with him. I knew I needed to take a lesson, but I didn't want to be by myself all morning. But, Jim snowboards and he admitted that, although he would gladly try to teach me, it had been so long since he had skied, he was afraid it would be like the blind leading the blind. So, I waited for my lesson to begin, relieved when other adults joined as I was mostly surrounded by children. 
The lesson started and I climbed a tiny mound without falling (the first part of a first timer's lesson is learning how to just walk around in your now 4-5 foot long feet). Then I skied down the tiny mound without falling! Yeah! This is great! Then I fell. Then I fell again. And again. I fell when I was just standing there. I flailed my arms wildly, attempting to keep my balance while just listening to the teacher. I had been warned that the first day is the most frustrating day and I was beginning to see why. Nothing the teacher was saying seemed to help. Lean forward and stand up straight? Lean forward and keep my hips in? What kind of strange bodily function is this?! At the advice of another newbie, I ditched the poles and concentrated on my skis. Suddenly, I wasn't falling! I was going uber slow, wedging my way across the hill face, but I didn't fall! I was even turning! Jim came around that time, his face red from the wind and we went to eat lunch. After eating it was on to the big beginner hills. Which meant taking the ski-lift. I had heard horror stories of these things: piles of people being dumped unceremoniously off at the top, rude lift workers refusing to slow it down despite the mound of bodies, parents desperately attempting to get on then off again with their squirming children, people face planting in front of the whole crowd at the top, but hey! What's a little more embarrassment on this very humbling day! 
I made it the first time. Then I made it down the whole hill and only fell once! Then I did it all again with the same results! Then I got on that lift for the third time and when it vomited me out I landed on my rear and slid down the hill, probably nearly impaling a stranger with my crazy pole swings. Ahh, humility, how I love thee!
Jim was incredibly supportive and stayed with me for the rest of the day, despite the easiness of the hill we were gliding down. He grinned proudly and told me I was a pro.... but he's supposed to say that. 
Also, look out for the little children. They zip around you with no fear, no poles and sometimes with their skis tied together in the front. Some parents had there children harnessed to themselves so they couldn't get away. I kept expecting them to shout, "Mush!" because the kids always looked like they were straining against their parental tie-downs.
I think we'll go again soon.