I’m what you call a “trouble maker.” I always have been. In the machine of life, I am not a fast spinning cog, smoothly firing piston or precisely timed valve – I am a monkey with a wrench. It is not my first nature so to be – but it is a thing I enjoy doing.
Because when things run smoothly long enough we start to get complacent. We start to get lazy. When a person, organization, family or church settles into a pattern that suits them pretty soon that pattern enables them to cease growing or expanding. But more importantly, we get boring. And boring is dumb and wrong.
So many people have found themselves busy with their work; living lives that are hectic - running kids to and fro to soccer practice and dance thingys and jazz this or club that. Calendar’s that sync to other calendars that send us e-mail reminders to our phones that we need to go to the next thing.
Busy? Yes. Hectic? Yes. Boring? YES. We’ve been duped into thinking that programming our lives with fun things will make our lives full and exciting. Instead, it’s made us predictable. It’s made us systematic. It’s made us rule following, deadline honoring, registration completeing, paper pushing lamewads.
This is the situation with us and Jesus. When it comes to God, we all have a certain pattern. For most of us, that pattern is simply shouting his name on a regular basis when we stub our toes. Then there are those who go to church regularly. You have your pattern – fill up with Jesus on Sunday and that should be enough in the tank to get me through this week until I coast back into the church parking lot on spiritual fumes.
‘Fill er up with high octane worship, please. And while you’re at it, could you check the fluids? I think I’m low on holy water…’
Maybe we’ve even got a far more complex pattern. Maybe it’s Church Sunday with Bible study, small group mid-week, morning and evening prayer time and daily devotionals. It sounds like a full and enriching Christian diet.
It also sounds boring.
Don’t get me wrong, Christian discipline is good and healthy. I advocate systematic time with God and practice it myself. However, this IS Lent. So we are closely examining ourselves for sin and spiritual flaws.
And there is a potential problem with static patterns of faith – God happens to be dynamic. Faith is dynamic. It lives, moves, grows and changes. Not that which you believe – but how that which you believe impacts you and your life. How you live, the decisions you make the relationship you foster and the risks you take.
We can’t let the routine of religion extinguish the impulsivity of faith. Habits are good – until they nunify our faith into a Spiritless, lifeless, static existence. The business of doing faithful things can become to us more important than the goal of those things – the bearing of spiritual fruit.
Jesus tells a parable in our text this Sunday about a tree that doesn’t bear fruit. By any other measure, it would be a good tree. It’s tall. It’s big. It provides shade. It clearly is working – drawing water and nutrients from the soil. The only problem is, it isn’t bearing fruit. In the parable, the owner wants to cut it down. The gardener buys some time, but the fact remains – if the tree doesn’t bear fruit it will be cut down.
This was for the people of Jesus’ day the real problem – they developed a highly structured religion. Enter the messiah – monkey wrench in hand. He was a real trouble maker. Disrupting trade in the temple, teaching with authority, doing things when you weren’t supposed to do them…
Jesus’ trouble making life, death and resurrection was for us. It is life changing because it grants the forgiveness of sins. It is life altering. It is a thing so huge that it should reshape the way you do everything. It should take your breath away with excitement. It should lead you on an adventure through life. It should make each day a new day in the Lord full of the unknown possibilities of what God might do today.
Unless you make it boring.
If you find faith boring, maybe you need some trouble in your life. Maybe you’ve got plenty already and aren’t seeing it as God’s opportunity to walk with you through the trouble and deepen your faith. Maybe this current trouble is the thing you need to go from the tree that always does and is what the tree does and is – to the tree that bears fruit. Maybe you need to be shook up. Maybe you need your world rocked. This could be the time and the place to step out and trust him and take him up on the offer to be his disciple and to be used for his glorious purposes.
Look to see Jesus in your troubles. If you do – you might just see him with a wrench, smile and gracious invitation to join him on a faithful journey that is anything but boring.
Or he might be the guy with the ax. There's always that alternative...