The Parable of the Fig Tree
A bit over eight years ago Helen and I moved from Bristol to Cambridge. I had given up my job and was about to start training at the end of September. But we moved in early August. Not because I had to start studying. But because we had a baby on the way. We had realised that we wanted to get settled in before the baby arrived. We wanted to register on an ante-natal course, to get to know people.
That nesting instinct can be very strong. And the need to get ready, to put down roots and build support networks, especially when a baby coincides with a move and a change in way of life. Advent is about getting ready.
My facebook this week told me that it was 15 years ago this week that Concorde took it’s last flight. I was there, in Bristol, at the airfield where Concorde set down. It was a sad day for many. There were those there who had worked on designing her. They were walking around looking lost, as if they were mourning a loved one. As a newcomer to the company it was an important reminder. A reminder of what made the business what it was. A world leading developer of technology, pushing the boundaries. But which had done so through international collaboration. The partnership between the french Aerospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation which had been the fore-runner of Airbus’ European mandate. It was a symbol that demonstrated symbolically shifts in an industry towards more efficiency and more accessibilty to the opportunity to fly. As a business, any business, being ready for the changes in the world, and prepared to take up new opportunities is essential.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable, about the budding of leaves on a fig tree as evidence of fruit to come. Jesus explains that we will see signs of God’s Kingdom has come near. Rather challengingly Jesus says to his disciples that: ’this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.’ Christ is speaking about the establishing of Christ’s kingship, which is fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and ascension. On the cross Jesus says, ‘it is finished’ because all things have been accomplished, even if, at the same time, the outworking of that accomplishment is still working itself out. This season of Advent, this season of hope is about preparing to find God afresh in Jesus at Christmas, and being prepared for the resolution of this time of now but not yet when this world comes to an end with the second coming of Christ.
Much like the buds of a fig tree telling you that the fruit is to come, each week we will be reminded of those fore-runners of Christ on our Jesse tree. Shoots which tell of the righteous branch of Jesus which emerged in the birth of Jesus. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs, who we remember in our first week of advent, were the first to hear God’s calling and to respond. Whether building an ark as Noah does or making three angels feel at home and offering them a meal as Abraham and Sarah do, the Patriarchs and Matriarchs were a model to us all as the first ones to respond to God’s love and to commit themselves to follow his calling.
This advent is a good chance for us to reflect on where we have seen God in action over the last year and years, to listen for his call and consider how we could respond. Both individually and as a community. Advent is a chance to prepare ourselves, and to renew ourselves, to follow God’s calling to us. In the new year the Parochial Church Council will meet to consider our direction for the Coming years, who we are as a community, what makes us who we are and to discern what we hear God calling us to be and do. We will review the suggestions people have made in the suggestion box and online. This advent is an opportunity for us all to dream dreams and to listen and look for God among us. And in the community outside. To be aware of where God is drawing us into new places, and where God has been building up our foundations. I’ve been struck over the last year of how supportive a community this can be. How welcoming and how naturally caring a community it is. These are gifts which God has given us, and we should be thinking of how we use them. In some cases, the church is a place of renewal and strength, to prepare you to go back to your daily life full of caring and supporting others. In other cases, that support is or can be provided through some of the activities we do together here. Like the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of old, we must be prepared to hear God calling us in new directions. This kind of preparation and discernment we undertake through this season of Advent should be embedded in prayer as we seek to listen to God’s call.
So let us pray: Dear Lord, who comes in the humble birth of a baby in a stable, help us, in the midst of the busyness of this month, to take time to listen to you. Help us to discern your wishes for us each individually, and for this church community as we seek to serve this parish of Child’s Hill. Help us to trust in your ability to do more than we can ask or imagine, as we seek to renew our faith in you.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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