Friday, September 30, 2016

Fig Trees and Fertilisers

“Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9
I read this story earlier this week. Fig trees always put me in mind of a lady called Dora, a friend of mine who taught with me in a school in Cyprus. She lived with her parents and there was a fig tree in the garden. I don’t recall ever having seen fresh figs before, certainly not as fruit on a tree. There are times when our local supermarket does a deal on fresh figs. I buy them only to be a little disappointed that there’s no juice to them to drip off my chin!

I had written a poem about fig trees earlier in the year as a part of a challenge to write a poem every day of Lent.

Soil Space

twelve million square miles
just thirteen percent
of the earth’s surface is
arable land
how much soil space does a fig tree need?
none at all if it bears no fruit
for all its leaves
for all its appearance of life
it cannot meet my hunger – it is
a waste of soil space

two point two billion people
thirty two percent of
the earth’s population are
how quickly can we turn the world upside down?
not at all without love
for all our buildings
for all our programs
we leave too many people hungry – are we too
a waste of space?

As I was reading the parable I had a picture – just an image. I imagined myself to be the fig tree. I looked down to see the roots had been dug around, the soil loosened a little and piles of manure being shovelled in. (I am assuming that it would have been manure the famer was using as a fertiliser.)

I remember looking up the man who took care of the vineyard. I was incredibly distressed.

“Am I not bearing any fruit?  Am I about to be cut down?”

The farmer laughed very gently, “Of course you have been bearing fruit! I want you to bear even more fruit – that’s why I am digging around your roots and piling on the fertiliser. Do you think I would do anything less for a healthy tree?”

I have to admit that I have felt challenged by so many things of late – a little unsettled and uncomfortable. God’s word, his fertiliser, has been demanding a richer, more defined response from me.


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