Have you ever been to camp? Perhaps with the Scouts or Girl Guides, perhaps a Christian Camp. There is a game that is often played at the campfire. It is a silly game and it is done in the form of a responsive song. Perhaps you’ve hear of it, it goes like this:
There ain’t no flies on us,
There ain’t no flies on us,
There may be flies on some of you guys,
But there ain’t no flies on us.
I’d like us to try this and see what happens. Let’s do it two times each. My side will start and then the other side can respond. Choir make sure you get involved. Ready?
It’s not quite the same as when it’s done at the camp fire. However, I do have a question for you, who are the flies on?
Are they on you or are they on me? Or are they on all of us?
Our passage from Luke this morning forces us to look at ourselves very carefully. To ask if we are in the right or if we are in the wrong. Most of the time we like to think that we are in the right. We give thanks for our blessings, but don’t consider when other people are harmed.
I recall sitting in a Philosophy of Religion course, we were discussing the power of providence and how God can intervene in our lives. A classmate of mine told a story about a very devout family. They were planning a trip which involved a flight. On the way to the airport they were delayed, which resulted in their missing the flight. The airplane ended up crashing. The family thanked God and attributed their not perishing on the plane to their prayers and God’s providence.
It is a wonderful story of God’s love and protection. However, it fails to consider all the other passengers on the plane. What about God’s love and protection for them? Does their prayer life or lack thereof influence their fate?
In our gospel account from Luke this morning we hear about some Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. We don’t hear much about Pilate in the gospels until the trial of Jesus, but here Pilate appears. Our reading this morning should tell us that Pilate was not a nice person. Pilate had killed some Galileans and Jesus asked, “Do you think the Galileans suffered this way because they were worse sinners than other Galileans?”
Similarly, Jesus asks did those who were killed under the tower of Siloam, were they worse offenders than others living in Jerusalem? Jesus replies, “No, unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Sometimes we like to divide people into different groups. The good guys and the bad guys. Us versus them. However, Jesus reminds us that we are all the same. That each of us receives the same forgiveness that Jesus offers.
In a memorable scene from the disturbing film Unforgiven, a young gun slinger is literally shaking in his boots in shock and remorse after having shot a man dead for the first time. In a weak attempt to justify himself, the young man says, “Well, I reckon he had it coming.” To this the grizzled old gun slinger played by Clint Eastwood replies, “We all got it coming, kid.” – See more at Calvin Centre for the Excellence in Preaching
This is the message we receive from Jesus in today’s gospel reading. That finger pointing and thinking ourselves better than others is not going to get us anywhere. It is wrongheaded and dangerous. Jesus tells us all we need to know, repent or perish. Turn towards God. Live a full life in the embrace of God’s love.
This is the mistake that we make. We think we are better or more fortunate than others and we forget that we are all in it together. Luke’s gospel reminds us to come together, to repent and trust in God.
The gospel lesson this morning finishes with the parable of the barren fig tree. The tree’s owner wants it cut down as it was not producing fruit. However, the gardener asks him to reconsider. He literally tells the owner to forgive the tree. To give it another chance to bear fruit. With God we are forgiven, we are given that second chance.
The gardener says let me pack manure around the base of the tree, to fertilize it and give it a chance at life. Friends, what do you find near and on manure?
You find flies.
Friends, we are in it together. This life, this world. None of us is any better than anyone else. Fortunately, we are cared for by a gardener who believes in second chances. In Jesus Christ each of us receives that second chance at life. Thanks be to God. Amen.