Sermon – Luke 13.6-9 (New Year’s Eve – 2018)
Let us pray: Eternal God, we commit to Your mercy and forgiveness the year now ending and commend to Your blessing and love the times yet to come. In the new year, abide among us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always trust in the saving name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
7 “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard,`Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’
8 “But he answered and said to him,`Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.
9 `And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.
Lord, Grant Us Another Year of Fruit
Dear fellow redeemed,
As we arrive to these last hours of this year and approach the new year, it is proper for us to be thankful and prayerful. We thank our heavenly Father for the blessings that He has granted to us this past year in His gracious providence. We thank Him for the good and abundance, but we also thank Him for the times of trial, for we know that He works even these for good. Through them, He lovingly chastises, admonishes, and leads us to trust Him with a strong childlike faith. Through them, He brings us low, that He may then exalt us in His kingdom.
And as we look forward to the new year, we pray to Him, that He may bless our new year with much good and blessing, though trusting Him, that whatever He gives us is best for us.
Our gospel reading today teaches us one of the things for us to pray for in this new year. And isn’t that what God’s Word does? God speaks to us through His word, and gives us words to speak in prayer to Him. So let us see what God would have us pray for this evening.
A man had a vineyard with a fig tree planted in it. For three years, the vinedresser spent time and effort working on that tree so that it would produce fruit. But it had not borne any fruit. So, the owner saw that it was time to condemn the tree. Time to cut it down. Why let it take up space in the vineyard? Why spend so much time and effort on it, when it will produce no fruit?
However, the vinedresser, showed grace toward that tree, asking to give it more time before cutting it down. He will work it in the hopes that it will this year produce fruit. If it doesn’t, then cut it down.
This gospel is about God’s grace and justice. God is just and will judge unbelievers. But He is also gracious, holding off judgment in great patience and longsuffering that they repent and believe in Him.
God had been so patient with the Israelites over the generations. Through the Patriarchs, through Moses and the Prophets, God called the Israelites to repent and trust in Him, and to live godly lives in accordance to His will. And though there were some who did bear these fruits, many did not. They remained unfaithful, grumbling against God, worshipping the gods of other nations, trusting in their own righteousness rather than God.
Judgment shall come upon them, but Jesus intercedes. He is patient and longsuffering, in grace He gives more time, that they may repent and believe.
But even when Christ arrived in the flesh displaying the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, the Jews still rejected Him. “He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him.” And Jesus cried out over the city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mt 23:37). They rejected Christ, and they largely rejected the apostles as well. And there is a time when grace gives way to judgment. And perhaps the cutting down of the fruitless tree is a picture of God judging the Israelites through the Roman siege of Israel and the destruction of the Temple in 70AD.
And so from this text, the Lord would have us pray that we bear fruit in this time of grace.
Basically, it is the prayer that the kingdom of God come, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Luther explains this coming of God’s kingdom in this way, “The kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and live godly lives here in time and hereafter in eternity.”
And so we pray that God’s kingdom come. We pray that it comes to those who do not know Him, who reject His grace. The patience of God is comforting when we have loved ones who do not know Him. God loves them, desires their salvation and is patient with them, that they may repent and trust in Christ. They still live in the time of grace, before the Lord’s judgment is carried out.
Likewise, we pray that God’s kingdom continue to come to us! The devil will do everything in his power to keep it from coming to us. As we think about what may be in store for us this year, the devil will use those things against us. If God blesses you with great earthly blessings, the devil will use it so that you treasure the things of this world more than the heavenly gifts Christ has won by His cross. If God chastises you, the devil, will use that to draw you away from the promises of God in Holy Scripture and lead you into doubt and despair. If God blesses you even with another year in this world, that means that we have another year to contend with the vain philosophies, false doctrines, and peer pressures of the world, and the rebelliousness of our sinful flesh.
And in spite of all these things we have dealt with in the past year, we thank God that His Kingdom has come to us, that He has given us the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits of the Gospel in us. He has brought us to believe His holy Word, to repent of our sins, and to rely upon Jesus alone as our Savior. He has given us the new life in Christ by which we live godly lives now, and are assured that this life will continue in perfection in the life to come!
And with the new year ahead of us, we boldly ask God’s blessing! And we boldly pray what God would have us pray–that He continue to let His kingdom come to us and that His Spirit may have His way with us and produce in us the fruits of the gospel!
In the New Year, God grant us humble and repentant hearts that turn to your Word and seek your gracious promises of forgiveness and love. Grant us a stronger faith and the abundance of joy and peace that your salvation gives. Grant us a new life that we may each day live godly lives to your glory!
Whether we go through times of happiness or through times of trouble, in whatever circumstance God gives us, we ask Him to always grant us these precious fruits. And He will do it, for that is His good and gracious will.
He will grant us such fruits that we may have the joy of His eternal salvation, that the devil may suffer disgrace, and that Christ, our Savior, may be glorified.
And knowing of His great love for us in Christ Jesus, what comfort and joy it is to entrust this new year into His gracious hands! Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; forevermore. Amen.