Second Chances and Delicious Fruit
I love come back stories like the movie Rudy or Rocky or cheering for the Chicago Cubs. Excitement and hope are intimately entangled. One of my favorites is Colonel Sanders, the KFC founder. Colonel Sanders started as a dedicated restaurant owner. At age 65 he retired and received his first social security check, $1.05. Colonel Sanders had dedicated his whole life to perfecting his fried chicken recipe and was near penniless. He was down and out, but he refused to let this be the punctuation on his career. He began going door to door asking restaurants and neighbors to partner with him and his delicious chicken recipe. He was told no 1,009 times before he got his first yes. Just over 20 year later he retired as the second most recognizable person in the world. Come back stories are inspirational.
Mercy, perishing, and the burning bush. This Sunday’s readings are filled with great imagery, a call to repentance and a familiar Old Testament story. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus calls us to repentance, reminding us that sin carries the fate of perishing or death. This section is one of the few fire and brimstone Jesus moments where God’s power and the reality of eternal death seem to speak louder than the treasure of the Kingdom of God and mercy. Yet, Jesus ends with a parable of a person who desires to cut down a tree that has produced no fruit and the gardener intercedes and asks for one more year.
“‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:8-9.
Jesus reminds us that our God is a God of second chances, that there is still time left on the clock, and that a comeback victory is still possible.
Moses is the gardener who intercedes for God’s people called forth by the burning bush. Jesus is the gardener who intercedes for us called forth and united by love and mercy from God the Father. You are the tree. Each of you has been given a second chance in Christ. Typically we take these second chances and try once again to get it right but doing the same things but better. What if you took this chance and changed your story altogether? Colonel Sanders could have just gone back to simply working at a restaurant, but he changed his story.
A peach tree will never bear an apple as its fruit. Often we seek to allow others to dictate the terms of our success, the goal of our labors, the outcome of our story. But this is not their second chance, it is yours.
Take time this lent to reflect on the aspects of your life, your calling and your identity that have been to entangled in other people’s definition of success. Then, take the second chance that has been given to you by Christ and carve out a new story for yourself, one that bears fruit that is unique to the calling God has for you. Expect hardship and rejection, but when those arise, remind yourself that God journeys with you, even when you are facing difficulties in your new direction for the 1,009th time. When God’s love is at that center of the adventure you live, the fruit you bear is always in season.