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Parable of the barren fig tree

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In Luke chapter 13, Jesus gives this parable of the barren fig tree:  A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So 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?" He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." ( vv6–9, NRSV) "The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree" by Tissot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) What is the meaning of this parable?  Dr. Joseph Tkach, former Grace Communion International President, offers the following explanation. I have seen that many assume the vineyard owner is God the Father. Rather, the realization struck me that Jesus is talking to humanity here referring to each one of us as a vineyard owner. Since the vineyard owner in t

Characteristics of Grace Giving (preaching resource for Pentecost 6, 6/30/24)

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This post exegetes 2 Corinthians chapter 8, providing context for the RCL Epistle readings on 6/30/24 (Pentecost 6). This exegesis draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe ("The Bible Exposition Commentary") and Colin Kruse ("The New Bible Commentary").  "Sermon of St. Paul Amidst the Ruins" by Pannini (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) Introduction   Paul was collecting a special offering to assist impoverished Christians in Judea. The blessings he hoped to see coming from the offering included not only relief for the poor, but also increased unity between Gentile and Jewish believers. Unfortunately, the church at Corinth was not doing its part. They had pledged to contribute, but had failed to follow through. Paul saw this as a lack of spiritual vitality manifested in a lack of generosity. To encourage them to generosity, Paul addresses the topic of grace giving, which is our participation, by grace, in the generosity of Jesus who lived what he taught:

Paul’s Appeal to Active Participation (preaching resource for Pentecost 5, 6/23/24)

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This post exegetes 2 Corinthians chapters 6 & 7, providing context for the RCL Epistle reading on 6/23/24 (Pentecost 5). This exegesis draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe ("The Bible Exposition Commentary") and Colin Kruse ("The New Bible Commentary").  "Worth of a Soul" by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with artist's permission) Introduction   In 2 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul rejoices in the reconciliation that all humanity has with God through the representative, substitutionary (vicarious) life of Jesus our Creator, Sustainer, Savior and Lord. Now in chapters 6 and 7 he appeals to the church to participate actively and faithfully in Jesus’ life: “As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain” (2Cor 6:1). Paul’s appeal has three parts. 1. Capitalize on the opportunity  2Cor 6:1–10 Paul first appeals to the Corinthians to join with him in capitalizing on the opportunity that is now present because of what Jesus has do

Motives for Ministry (preaching resource for Pentecost 4, 6/16/24)

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This post exegetes 2 Corinthians 5:9-21, providing context for the RCL Epistle reading on 6/16/24 (Pentecost 4). This exegesis draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe ("The Bible Exposition Commentary"). "Lost and Found" by Greg Olsen (used with artist's permission) Introduction In his epistles, Paul frequenly uses the word “therefore” as he transitions from explanation to application. We see this in 2 Corinthians 5 whre Paul's overall theme is  motivation for ministry. Paul's enemies in Corinth and elswhere were accusing him of having selfish motives. He counters such accusations by outlining from his own experience three acceptable motives for ministry. 1. Reverence for Christ  2 Cor. 5:9–13 Paul writes, “[We] know what it is to fear the Lord...." (2 Cor. 5:11)—an attitude of awe  and deep reverence for God that is often lacking in ministry. Paul explained this motive by sharing his own testimony in three powerful statements. We labor (2 Cor. 5:

Encouragement for Ministry with Jesus (preaching resource for Pentecost 2 & 3, 6/2/24 & 6/9/24)

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This post exegetes 2 Corinthians 4:1-5:8, providing context for the RCL Epistle readings for June 2 and 9, 2024 (Pentecost 2 & 3). This exegesis draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe ("The Bible Exposition Commentary") and Colin Kruse ("The New Bible Commentary"). "Jesus Travelling" by Tissot (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) Introduction   As believers, we are called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to participate with Jesus in his New Covenant ministry. And what a joy it is to “journey” with our Lord as he ministers, by the Spirit, through the church, in the world. But let’s face it—ministry with Jesus is sometimes difficult and even discouraging. When we face the “down” times, we need Paul’s words of encouragement: “Since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2Cor 4:1).  Paul knew what he was talking about. He often faced severe difficulties in ministry. Sometimes he grew deeply discouraged. Yet, he did not lose

The Blessings of Life in the Spirit (preaching resource for Trinity Sunday, 5/26/24, Pentecost 1)

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This post exegetes Romans 8:1-17, providing context for the 5/26/24 (Trinity Sunday) RCL Epistle reading. This exegesis draws on commentary from John Stott's and "The Expositor’s Bible Commentary." "Pouring of the Holy Spirit" by van Dyk (public domain va Wikimedia Commons) Having discussed in Romans 7 the frustrations of seeking to live for God under the law, Paul now turns in Romans 8 to the blessings that come through living for God in the Spirit.  Contrasting the law and the Spirit, Paul shows that the law has no power to save or to deliver from indwelling sin, whereas the Spirit does both. Thus the apostle points Christians away from living under the law to a life animated, sustained, directed, transformed and enriched by the Holy Spirit.  In Romans 8:1-17 he describes several  glorious blessings of life in the Spirit. No condemnation  Romans 8:1 The first blessing of life in the Spirit is related to what Paul wrote in chapter 5: 'Therefore, since we ha

The Spirit’s Ministry to Us in Suffering (preaching resource for Pentecost Sunday, 5/19/24)

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This post exegetes Romans 8:17-27, providing context for the 5/19/24 (Pentecost) RCL Epistle reading. This exegesis draws on commentary from John Stott's and "The Expositor’s Bible Commentary."  "The Descent of the Holy Ghost" (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) Romans 8 addresses the ministry of the Spirit in our sanctification (which, as noted in Romans 7, is something the law is incapable of doing).  This transforming ministry of the Spirit has multiple aspects and brings us multiple blessings—several of which are enumerated in 8:1-17.  But at the end of verse 17, Paul introduces a part of our sanctification that we often find troubling—the suffering we experience as Christians. Why do we suffer in this life?  Paul now turns to this important question and points out that for a Christian, suffering is not meaningless, nor an indication that God has abandoned us—rather, through the indwelling Spirit, our suffering is redemptive—it leads to our progressive tra