March 5, 2010

March 5: Respect the timeline


By Paul Steury, K-12 education coordinator for Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College
SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Right after Dylan, my first son, was born we planted an apple tree in honor of his birth. I purchased it from the local nursery right down the road from Merry Lea, Benders Orchard. We waited for the first fruit to grow on that tree. And we waited and waited and waited. We pruned it. Mulched it. Put coffee grounds around it. And still no fruit. I couldn’t cut down the tree that we planted in honor of my first son so we kept loving it and being patient. Well, after the sixth year we got five apples off of that tree. The seventh summer we got thirty!

According to the University of Illinois Extension Service Apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit. If I would have been impatient and listened to the man in verse six of today’s Scripture, I would have cut the tree down after the third year. But we didn’t give up hope. We knew that that extra special tree would be bountiful as long as we waited and protected it from harm.

Sometimes we just can’t wait for the Lord and we don’t trust that the harvest won’t come. Sometimes it’s hard for us to trust the Creator and respect the timeline which is not ours. Because of that, we might become slackers, we might not continue the path given to us. So as an environmental educator, when I see the creation being mistreated because of impatient people being greedy and not respecting the Creator, like mountaintop removal in West Virginia, or the shadows of taller trees overshadowing my fig tree, like climate change, I want to not continue my path. But according to Nelson Thomas, one of the original founders of Minnesota Episcopal Environmental Stewardship Commission, “we (need to) use Jesus’ message (in this parable) to fertilize our efforts to protect, conserve, educate, support, advocate and learn” about this creation the Lord has given us to care for. Don’t expect God to do everything for you. Continue being a great gardener. And wait for the Lord.


SCRIPTURE: Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or 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? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’
Then 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. 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 round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’



Comments (12)

  1. This devotion is WAY BETTER than most! Thanks so much. It isn’t moralizing or preachy and just so very practical. Salaam from a “Mennonite Admirer” living in Occupied West Bank (Palestine). Salaam

    Shadra Shoffner March 5, 2010 |
  2. Thank you, Paul, for a genuinely insightful devotion. Care for creation isn’t some isolated concept, independent of our Lenten and greater spiritual journeys, and I’m grateful for your having brought it into this Holding On, Letting Go experience of Lent. And what a terrific idea to plant a tree to commemorate your child’s birth…fresh-picked apples trump birthday cake any day.

    Brian Paff March 5, 2010 |
  3. Thank you for this wonderful commentary! It is good to be reminded of the wisdom that was available to Jesus in the natural world around him. Modern people want everything NOW. God’s timeline, like nature’s, is not necessarily convenient.

    Ron Prince March 5, 2010 |
  4. I was moved by your reflections, Paul. I couldn’t help but think of your dad, sharing apricots, as I envisioned you with your son by this apple tree. I appreciate the words of HOPE you include about the creation, even in the face of a discouraging picture with climate change, etc. It’s so true it is hard to “respect the timeline that is not ours.” And “don’t expect God to do everything for you,” but “continue” and “wait.” Thanks.

    Marcella Hershberger March 5, 2010 |
  5. What wonderful thoughts. Realizing again that waiting on God is well worth the wail. Thanks.

    Mary Litzinger March 5, 2010 |
  6. I, truly appreciated your devotional!! God’s timeline is far better than ours even though it is so hard to wait!!

    Phyllis Kehr March 5, 2010 |
  7. thank you for this special devotional today. we are waiting to have another child someday, and right now, God’s timing is not ours. the waiting seems so long and i am very impatient, jumping to all sorts of horrible conclusions. thank you for your understanding of this difficult passage and your connections to our stewardship of God’s creation. it is just what i needed to be reminded of today.

    pastor melinda March 5, 2010 |
  8. Thank You for your insight on todays devotional
    It is a great reminder to me as I struggle with
    a situation that things happen on and in Gods
    timeline and not my own. Thanks for the words
    of wisdom

    Karen March 5, 2010 |
  9. Yes, waiting can be difficult and sometimes frustrating. Thank you for reminding me that God’s timeline is best!

    Esther March 5, 2010 |
  10. Thanks, Paul. I appreciate these encouraging words.

    Melissa March 5, 2010 |
  11. Paul, Thanks for such an encouragement to the practical; we had the same reading at the small Church of Ireland (Episcopal) church where I paly the organ, this morning (Sunday) and your message really provoked my thinking as I came to the passage again,
    Warm good wishes,

    tony Walsh March 7, 2010 |
  12. Pablo, you are such an inspiration to me and my family. Thank you for this reminder that we can’t always work everything out on our own, no matter how organized/assertive/energetic we are. Sometimes it’s enough to keep tending the tree and waiting for God to reveal what’s next.

    Lisa Guedea Carreno March 9, 2010 |