I am Here to Grow and to Serve
2nd Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2019
John the Baptist was unique. The people of Israel had not seen an Old Testament prophet for centuries but they did recognize the real thing when they heard him. People were coming from all over to hear Jesus – and this included many Scribes and Pharisees – the religious leaders of their day. John wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was! But preaching like this got him in trouble pretty fast. John, too, would soon be a prisoner in a jail for speaking the truth once too often.
John the Baptist compares our lives on earth to an orchard in today’s gospel (Matthew 3:1-12). We, in the Willamette Valley, are blessed with numerous orchards. According to John, we ourselves are like a tree planted in an orchard! And what is the point of a tree planted in an orchard? To bear fruit! OK, here is the straight story.
I am a tree. If all I do is grow leaves and look beautiful, I am going to be cut down, because I am expected to bear fruit, not just look beautiful or take up space!
Earth is a garden, and on it, God plants successive waves of orchards. We are now living in an orchard planted by God, and, at least for the moment, you and I are planted in the Orchard of Salem-Keizer. I will not be here forever. No, I will be here only for a time. I am here, not just to take up space, not just to look pretty, but to bear fruit. Eventually, the best and most productive years of my life will pass by and I will be uprooted so that another tree can be planted in my place. Space on earth is limited, and some day I will have to go, so it is important to understand what life is really all about and what is expected of me during the years that I am permitted to grow and be planted in the orchard. I am here both to GROW and to SERVE.
John, in today’s gospel, is very blunt, but his words still ring true today. Is my life fruitful for God and others? Or am I all leaves, just taking up space? The truth hurts sometimes, but that’s how we grow. The time that we have to bear fruit on earth is limited. It is necessary to use this time well. Selfishness is deadly to our soul and the spiritual life. He loves us and he knows better than we do how precious and limited our lives on earth are. If we listen to him, we will understand what life is all about. My life is meant to be a gift to others – my family, my friends, the people I work with, go to school with, encounter in the store, on the road, and on the internet. This is the field where I am planted. This is where God wishes me to bear fruit. At present, we are all planted in the orchard of God’s garden on earth, but my time is actually quite limited. It is necessary to use it well.