Monday, May 28, 2012

The Fig Tree

by Alice Valdal

     There's a fig tree on the grounds of SPPC.   
     I grew up in a colder climate than Victoria's so I find the presence of a fig tree amazing all by itself, but as a reminder of Christian life, it is even more wonderful.    As a farm girl, I get the agrarian metaphors in the Bible,-- seed cast on good soil or poor, sheep and shepherds, the lily of the field, the mustard seed -- all of these conjure up real, physical images for me, but the fig tree has always been a mystery, an exotic from a foreign land.  But here it is, growing happily just off the parking lot of my church.

        So, I looked it up. 
        Fig trees require well-drained and fertile soil
 Now that sounds like a parable all by itself. 
       They need to be protected from cold winter winds
 Don't we all experience seasons of faith when we need a little protection from the cold and wind of unbelief? 
        Fig trees need adequate room to grow and respond well to a little fertilizer.  
 The church provides that space for believers to grow, to deepen their faith and to develop their skills.  We all benefit from the enriching experience of fellowship.
         Fig trees don't require much care, but some judicious pruning will improve the crop.  
Ouch.  Who wants to be pruned?  Yet it is necessary in our Christian journey that we examine our lives and discard the elements that draw us away from God.
        Well treated, a fig tree produces an abundance of fruit.  
Now that's more like it.  Nurtured in the soil of the church, we can all yield a rich harvest for Christ.
       No wonder the Bible is rife with references to the fig tree, its very nature cries out for parable and metaphor.   In the Old Testament, verse after verse uses the image of "everyone sitting under his own fig tree" to denote a time of plenty and peace. By contrast, times of strife and war and famine are described as the fig tree dried up and withered, or cut down or shattered.

       The Gospels of Matthew and Mark both recount the tale of Jesus cursing a fig tree because it bore no fruit. Again, in the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree, to show the Master's disappointment when his tree is barren. 
          From Deuteronomy where the Lord promises His people "a land of wheat and barley, vines and fig trees," to John's vision in Revelations  where "the stars in the sky fell to earth,as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind," the fig tree is used to preach and to prophecy, to teach and to discipline.  
          How appropriate that our church has a fig tree.

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