Thursday 26 October 2023

Keep Shovelling

I get that we’re all different and we can disagree on things. I get that we’re all different and that can sometimes be scary to people, particularly when we don’t understand the way - or the why - others are different. I get that we’re all different and we’d really like to have our own way.

I think we also know that disagreement ought to be met with discussion and debate, fear of difference should be met with interaction and learning, and our own way should be met with a healthy openness to new ideas.

But it doesn’t seem to happen that way lately.

So often it seems like discussion and debate turns to mean spirited personal attacks, name calling and demonizing, factual information is being replaced with, at best, uncritical opinion and, at worst, outright fabrication, and new ideas are being rejected out of hand, if they’re even allowed to be expressed. It seems like we’re at a whole new ugly level of bitterness and recrimination.

I think we also know that there’s more than a fair amount of, well, what’s a good word? Rubbish, baloney, hogwash, hooey, malarky, crap? Let’s say “stuff,” for now. There’s a fair amount of stuff being offered by politicians, celebrities, corporations and others trying to sell a product or an idea or even someone just trying to get their own way who’ll saying anything, absolutely anything, to convince you to buy/vote for/support them. It’s not just on social media, it’s everywhere.

It’s all, well, one form of manure or another.

I think Jesus would ask you if that’s the kind of manure you want your life to be filled with. More importantly, is that the kind of manure you want to spread on the world around you?

In Luke 13:6-9 Jesus tells a story about a fig tree that wasn’t producing any fruit. The owner of the tree is angry that it hasn’t produced anything for three years so they tell the gardener to cut it down. “Why should it be wasting the soil?” he asks. But the gardener asks him to give it another chance. They’ll “dig around it and put manure on it” - in other words, they’ll care for it and feed it - and if it doesn’t produce, then he can cut it down.

And that’s where Jesus stops the story. He doesn’t say if the owner said yes or no, or if the gardener took care of it and it produced fruit, or if the gardener took care of it and it didn’t. The story ends with opportunity, not result. The expectation of fruit, or lack of it, shouldn’t predetermine our effort to nurture and care for the tree. (Fig trees, by the way, take at least 3-5 years to produce fruit.) In every moment is the opportunity for new life, for growth and for bearing fruit, and we should live into that moment as the story suggests: with a shovel full of manure.

But not that first kind. Jesus means the kind that nourishes, that feeds and restores, that helps us each grow into the best human being we are, the kind that produces a fruitful life. Jesus means grace and compassion, kindness and love, he means what is true and life-giving for everyone, not just ourselves. I think Jesus is asking, what are you shovelling?