February 28, 2016 “ 3 Lent, Year C
Exodus 3:1-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
Robert C. Wisnewski Jr.
I had a dream last week that has been bouncing around in my mind. All dreams are meant for our healing and wholeness and dreams are major ways that God speaks to us, giving us images to ponder and reflect on. Dreams often reveal both our struggles in life, the work we must engage, and progress we are making in our journey. This dream was pretty simple and easy to remember.
I was sitting in a pew here at St. John’s with a parishioner. It wasn’t a recognizable individual but in the dream he was one who represented authority to me. He and I were all alone in the church. There was a space between us in the pew. He said to me, Well, Robert, I can see that you have done absolutely nothing about all the things I brought to your attention last week. I didn’t say anything but nodded in agreement, feeling like I wasn’t measuring up to expectations. He went on. Pointing to a little dirt on the floor, he said, You really need to clean this place up. Then he pointed to a little rough place on the back of the pew in front of us and said, A little sandpaper would take care of this, Robert, and looked my way disapprovingly. Again I nodded my assent, feeling a little overwhelmed, but pretty much agreeing with what the man told me. That was it. The dream was over or that’s all I remembered of the dream when I woke up. Well, Robert, I can see that you have done absolutely nothing about all the things I brought to your attention last week.
Maybe the most significant thing about the dream is that, as I was remembering it, I was laughing at myself for how quickly I assent to impossible expectations and realizing how I need to lighten up a little bit. But what has stuck with me since the dream is the accurate truth that there is work I have to do in this life, work that may never actually be fully accomplished but, nonetheless, work that is assigned to me for my own good.
The first part of our Gospel lesson may be a little confusing but it actually is pretty simple. Jesus is saying that, while we try to take some comfort in thinking that others are more sinful than we are, every one of us is sinful; every one of us falls short; in God’s eyes we are all the same. The second part of the lesson flows from that and the parable tells us that we all are being given more time to do our work. None of us is bearing the fruit we were created to bear but we’re not being cut down and thrown away. There is still time. And not only is there still time, there is an outside agent who advocates for us, who takes up for us, who takes on the task of digging around and fertilizing our soil so that we may grow into all that we were created to be.
We all have work to do. None of us is finished, nor shall we ever be finished. We are not cut down and thrown away because we haven’t completed our work. Something outside of us comes into our lives to make it possible for us to grow and do what we were created to do.
As we engage our work in life, we often struggle with either being too self-centered and feeling overly responsible for things or being too other-centered and blaming someone else for our lack of progress. Both of those mistaken thoughts indicate how alone we feel in our struggles. We tend to live with a sense of cosmic criticism where we feel that, if we don’t get it right, we’ll get cut down and thrown into some fire. In that way, we approach life as some venture in which we have to prove ourselves worthy.
Our experience in life is that, when we fail or fall short, we get another chance. But, in the back of our minds, we think this is our last chance to get it right. And so again we return to our self-centered world where it all depends on how we perform.
Every one of us should seriously consider the work God has given us to do in this life. Lent is a pretty long reminder that none of us has it all together, that each of us is sinful, that we have important work to do. Each of us is called to repentance and honestly facing who we are. But, as you consider your life and work, remember that Christ himself comes to dig around in your soul, to advocate for you, to fertilize you with his love and forgiveness. God is not way up there waiting to see how you do. He is not simply pointing out all you have not done. God is working to heal you and save you. God has heard your cry and he has come down to deliver you from all that oppresses you.