Spiritual Preparation: Your Responsibility
Luke 13:1-9 March 3, 2013
A problem that John Wesley found early in his field preaching was that there were people who were fleeing from the wrath to come who did not have a means to grow in grace. These were men and women who had not been part of the Church of England. Well, at least not formally. There was a time when you were born, you were baptized, and automatically a member of the Anglican Church. There was not much follow-up on whether you were living your baptism or not. So, what about your responsibility?
John Wesley decided to start classes and societies. The classes would be groups for the recent converts to Christ to be able to grow in grace. There would be weekly meetings where they would give an account of their souls, temptations they had overcome and had not overcome. After a set period of time in the class, the convert would be able to get a ticket in order to receive Holy Communion at the society meeting in their community. Does this help you in your responsibility?
We even see in the New Testament the example Paul sets with Timothy and Titus. Timothy and Titus spent time with Paul. Paul in turn instructed them and showed by his life how to follow Jesus Christ. Of course, Paul had a sponsor in the person of Ananias. This seems to be the way that Christ-like responsibility was handed on.
Jesus himself guided twelve disciples. For three years they followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and they saw Jesus heal people. In this sense, Jesus sponsored the disciples in their growing understanding of how to live with and for God in this world. Jesus took his responsibility seriously.
Now, you heard the Scriptures read this morning and you are wondering how they fit into being spiritually prepared for baptism. As we overhear Jesus instruct the people of Galilee, we hear a call for us to repent and to be fruitful. It is the part of being fruitful after having repented that is sometimes difficult to do. Let us gain some understanding of what it means to repent and to bear fruit, which will be your responsibility.
- What about the tragedies in life? (13;1-5)
- Pilate had mixed Galilean blood with sacrifices
- The tower of Siloam fell & killed 18
- Repent or perish as they did
- When will we die? We don’t know. But we do know that accidents happen. The insurance experts say that those who are in their working years need to have disability insurance. That way they are prepared if and when something bad happens to them. That idea is almost like what Jesus is saying. Almost like because repenting is not buying disability insurance. Repenting is changing from our ways of doing things to doing things the way God does things. It is learning to thirst after God. Otherwise, if we perish from this life in an accident, we may not be able to live for the rest of time with God. It is not that your sin causes tragedy. But your sin will keep you from the presence of God. The opposite of perishing is living. Repentance can be said to lead to life. How is the repentant life lived, your responsibility to God lived?
- What does the barren fig tree have to do with me? (13:6-9)
- Parable – a metaphor used as a teaching aid
- The fig tree would not produce for three years
- A man owned the fig tree, but a gardener cared for it
- The gardener wants to help the fig tree bear fruit
- Sponsors (for children and adults)
- Present the candidates for baptism (UMH 33)
- Nurture those who can speak for themselves & those who don’t speak for themselves (UMH 34)
- We don’t want our newly baptized people to fall away from the church. We hope that they bear fruit were God has planted them. Our sponsors will be spending time with our candidates during the Confirmation Class. But the responsibility does not end there. As part of the congregation, the sponsors & the congregation will help nurture the newly baptized in a Christ-like life. We want the newly baptized to grow in their trust of God, to be found faithful in their service to others. We want the newly baptized to bear fruit. We dig around and put manure around them so they can bear fruit. Sponsors do that, as well as the rest of the congregation. We create the environment so that the baptized can bear fruit.
- Fruit? Food for others, building/repairing a home, taking someone to a doctor appointment, helping children, teaching immigrants
- It is your responsibility to turn to God. Part of that responsibility is to grow and bear fruit. It is the church’s responsibility to provide an environment where you can grow. Your sponsors bear fruit by helping you along the way. God is pleased when we bear fruit.
What is your responsibility? It is to turn to God, repent of your ways, and live God’s way. That means you bear fruit. You serve God in such a way that people know that you know God.
We want to provide an environment for you to grow. We don’t want you to fall away from the church. Your sponsors will be available for you. Ask them questions about their faith. Observe how they bear fruit.
Church, it is your responsibility to provide means and ways that our candidates for discipleship can bear fruit. May God guide you to encourage their faith. Yes, we want you to put “manure” on their lives. Just don’t leave them thinking the life of a Christian stinks!