NEXT YEAR – Third Sunday in Lent, Year C

March 20, 2022

Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11 (8a)
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9

There are many who believe—and secretly hope—that sooner or later people will get what’s coming to them.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is told about a Roman massacre of Galileans who were in the act of offering sacrifice to God. Both Jesus and those who were reporting this incident knew all too well the brutality of the Roman occupiers. Yet was it possible that these victims had committed evil deeds that made them less deserving of sympathy?

Jesus takes the opportunity to address this question head on. His answer is a resounding “No, I tell you.” Wealth and good health are not rewards for good behavior, nor are violence, poverty, and sickness punishments for bad behavior. Jesus embraces neither the prosperity gospel nor the commonly held notion of karma.

He goes on to turn the question back on those who are reporting the incident, warning them—and us—that “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Lk 13:3). If our focus is on how others need to clean up their acts lest they come to a bad end, we are missing the hard truth that all are sinners and that all stand in need of repentance.

While this saying seems harsh, the parable that Jesus tells immediately afterwards puts it in context. The master in the story is like us: If the fig tree isn’t bearing fruit, cut it down and make room for something (someone) else. The gardener is like God, who never gives up on us. Give it another year, let me dig around and give it some manure, and let’s see if it will bear fruit.

Make no mistake: God is calling us to repentance—but God is all about next year, ready to dig and fertilize, with a heart full of compassion and love. God is always eager to offer another opportunity for us sinners to respond to that divine love. And so, Lent comes around every year with God’s invitation to repentance and with the good news of God’s unbounded mercy. We are given the chance to hear God’s word, reflect on our lives, and to embrace the path of repentance—to change our lives and bear fruit for God’s reign.

Do we suppose that sooner or later people get what’s coming to them? If we are to believe Jesus, that means second chances, forgiveness, and mercy. As we celebrate God’s overflowing goodness to us, let’s also imagine what the world would be like if we, the followers of Christ, were to extend forgiveness and mercy with the same extravagance as the God of next year. Could we give that a try?

A Hymn for Today: “You Thirsty Ones, Come”

This hymn is based on Isaiah 55:1-11, which is appointed as the Hebrew Scripture reading today in the Revised Common Lectionary. This passage sounds the call to repentance in the context of God’s abundant, overflowing mercy and love, much as Jesus does throughout the Gospel of Luke. The text was written by former Hymn Society President Andrew Donaldson, FHS, who was co-editor of the Canadian Presbyterian hymnal, The Book of Praise (1997).

You thirsty ones, come to the spring!
Have you no money? Come,
buy wine and milk; come, buy and eat
without a price or sum,
without a price or sum.

Why do you work and earn and spend
on that which is not bread?
O listen now and come to me;
eat what is good instead;
eat what is good instead.

This food delights and satisfies,
the food your God can give;
incline your ear and come to me;
O hear that you may live;
O hear that you may live.

Return while God may still be found,
and call while God will hear;
now let the wicked quit their ways
while yet the Lord is near,
while yet the Lord is near.

My word like heaven’s snow descends;
it falls like heaven’s rain;
it waters all the thirsty earth
and shall not go in vain,
and shall not go in vain.

Text: Andrew Donaldson, b. 1951. © 1996, Andrew Donaldson. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857

Image Credit: The Gardener and the Fig Tree, Dungarvan, Waterford, Ireland

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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