7 June 2013

Luke 13:6-9

“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.” (v. 6)


This story about the fig tree is placed in between a gory report about some Galileans (Luke 13:1-5) and followed by the healing of the women bent double (Luke 13:10-17). Whilst it maybe a spontaneous response to understand these stories as being about judgement and repentance, there is a quality within the story of the vinedresser (gardener) and the fig tree which speaks to me about tender love and care.

Whilst I was teaching I was often working in a context of social deprivation where families struggled with their emotions and their capacity to cope. Tempers often spilled out on to the streets and into the classrooms resulting in the children being labelled as 'no good' and 'hard work'. Few teachers would go to schools in these areas, but those who did were often those who saw the child first and their outward behaviours second. They offered tender and appropriate love and care. So, when in school, the children responded more positively to the adults who did not cut them down in their tracks but frequently went beyond the working day to show that there was more to life than anger and resentment.

The vinedresser encouraged the vineyard owner to give the fig tree a second chance. The dresser knew what patience and nurturing could do, unlike the owner who wanted a return for his investment and quickly too! With gentle persistence and patience, the vinedresser believed he could restore the fig tree. He understood the needs and requirements that a young tree had; he was a good gardener.

It is easy to hear the allusion to God as the gardener in this passage … a heavenly gardener who knows the ground wherein the seeds of humanity have been sewn and who knows what each seed requires to grow well and bear fruit.

To Ponder

  • There are times when it is good to be impatient; impatient for change when people are hurting (such as the work of the IF campaign); impatient with systems that suffocate creativity. You will probably think of others. But there are times in our lives when we are wrongly impatient. When have you seen impatience? Reflect on your response to the situation or the feelings it invoked in you.
  • Sometimes the church community can feel stifling and unloving, particularly if there are people amongst it who are perceived as being different. How can a culture of patience and understanding, love and nurture be developed? Is there space for a garden or plants to grow that could demonstrate a caring culture?

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.