Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)
Chapter 13At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Verse 2He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Verse 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Verse 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? Verse 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."
Verse 6Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. Verse 7So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' Verse 8He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. Verse 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"
Here Jesus speaks of judgment. "Unless you repent, you will ... perish." It sounds like a threat, but it's also a fact of existence. The truth is, we are perishing—each day brings us closer to the grave. In a culture that barely acknowledges death, Jesus' words are a stark reminder: No one leaves this world alive.
Our only hope is to repent, to turn around. I'll be the first to admit, I don't want to. It means changing my mind, admitting I was wrong, letting go of my strategies to keep suffering at bay. I want to continue to pretend I have the power to control the outcome. But the truth is we are dependent on God for food, for breath, for forgiveness. And judgment is coming. Like a barren fig tree that gets a second chance, we have the opportunity now to turn to God. Will we take it?
God of mercy, we confess we are powerless against the forces of death. We repent and turn to you. Save us, forgive us, heal us. Amen.