Why should It Use Up the Ground?

The Hook

Some of Jesus’ parables are frightening.

The Book

His parable in Luke 13:6-9 certainly is. The owner of a vineyard was seeking fruit from his fig tree, but when he came to it he found none. He told the Gardener, “Three years I have sought fruit from this tree, and still I find none. Chop it down! Why should it use up the ground? The Gardener says, “Let it remain for a year, and I will dig deep and put in fertilizer. If it grows fruit then it is good; if not, then chop it down.” ~Luke 13:6-9. This parable Jesus told is alarming when you realize the tree is given to mean you.

The Look

The Vineyard owner does not merely like trees for decoration. He wants fruit, sustenance, profit, continuation. He does not want the earth gone to waste. Indeed the word in Greek for “use up the ground” gives the idea of taking all its usefulness so that it is wasted and useless afterwards: like a soiled tissue, or a an empty pizza box. Another important thing about the phrase “use up the ground” is that the ground is the word for Earth. In Hebrew and Greek the word for earth, ground, and dirt art synonymous. A possible rendering of Genesis 1:1 in Hebrew is “In the beginning, God created the [ground] and the [sky].” It is much less a rendering of a material planet here and now and an immaterial place somewhere far away where God’s throne is, as it is talking about the concrete and immaterial reality that makes up life today around the world. In the Old Testament this idea of Heaven and Earth is vital to understanding the whole story, and God’s plan for a new Heaven and Earth in both Testaments.

The Took

Jesus gives a a story about what life is worth and what is worth ending life for the sake of life. The Gardener and the Vineyard owner in this paragraph demonstrate the Justice and the Forbearance of God.

JUSTICE: says “This tree belongs to me and it is not doing what it is meant to do. It must be removed and extinguished because it is using up the good and making it bad!”

FORBEARANCE: says “This tree is worth investing in and waiting a little bit longer to see if it is fruitful, so that this good thing may produce more good. If however, after further investment and patience it does not improve, then we will know for sure that the problem is with the tree itself, not the soil or the owner. So then it will be right for it to be removed.

“Behold the Kindness and Severity of God.” ~Romans 11:22. God is true, and requires a good accounting; He is also loving and gives all he can. In the end, all glory goes to His name, and all creation be filled with the glory of His goodness.

Application:

  1. That being said, I believe this parable is meant to draw our attention to the earth, the tangible concrete reality in which we live. “Why does it use up the ground?” is another way of asking, “Why does this even exist?” God has poured out his blessing on Humanity, and made a good world, and has charged mankind with the task of making making it good extremely! (See Genesis 1:28-31). This is part of what has been called the cultural mandate given to humanity. All humans are called to continue the growth of God’s good world.
  2. Specifically for Christians, God has called us to be the salt of the earth to preserve it. We are to take the good and make more good of it in concrete tangible ways. As the Holy Spirit guides us, He breathes life into all the the dead and dying things and from them creates new things through which His life can nourish others. Believers must learn to be led by the Holy Spirit so they can be a part of this preservation of Life.
  3. Specifically for Christians, God has in mind for us to invest and make good those things which will last unto eternity. This does not negate the need to accomplish physical restoration and healing of our concrete tangible reality. Jesus after all did not only preach about the life to come, nor value purely the souls of humankind, but also their physical needs he met and their infirmities he restored. All this he did with a view to the praise of His Father who expects a good harvest of Earth and Heaven before he makes all things new. So then, believers must not work for temporary ends of the kingdoms of men, but rather for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ which is filling the whole earth, starting in the hearts of men, and flowing out from them in all that they touch.
  4. For all Humanity, we must learn to fear the God who made us, planted us, owns us, and seeks results from us. He is forbearing and kind, and He is also exact and just. His patience will come to an end, and He will act for the good of His beloved people and creation, and the sake of His name, so that all the world may give praise to the Lord, “for He is good, and his Love endures forever.”

Grace

It comes like a meek kid
One who never flips his lid
Someone you can easily ignore.
When you’re all puffed up
You call “Who’s who, and “What’s what.”
You are blinded to his true glor’

But then in the bleakness,
That black sin of weakness,
You cry out for God to forgive,
And you realize his strength
To endure all the length
And with us despite sin choose to live.

Take heed, o sinner
Grace is the true winner
He will say, “Go and sin no more.”
And if you sin still
Bear the cross he still will
For the precious one, He does adore.

Melting

I visited the Welder’s house, and I received instruction.

He showed me a weld that was poorly done. It had sags. It had fish eyes. It had lumps. And it was not structurally sound. So either it would suffer abuse and afterward fall apart in 2-3 years, or it would nee to be ground down again. If it was done again smoothly in a structurally sound way, even after abuse it would last at least 10 years instead.

I understood: This is why God takes his time with us. And often has to grind us down and have us start over. Because he knows if he does not, then when we suffer abuse, we will be struck down to the core of our being, and will fall apart much quicker, unless he takes his sweet, steady time preparing His vessel according to the need only He can foresee.

He also showed me a weld with cracks, and he told me, “Cracks always propagate!”

I understood: any issue that is not dealt with before the Lord will continue to be an issue. Arrest smaller issues before they become larger ones.

He told me that welders often go fast because they get excited. But when that happens they only lay half of the load down. It takes a steady hand that has insight into the true nature of the particular metal who has a successful weld.

I understood: As God prepares his vessel, the vessel will be tempted to speed up the process any way he can, because he feels the Lord’s power, but he does not yet possess the true insight into the material which He is being welded into.

 

Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. 🙂 The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?

How to write a poem: How to Be a Lit Candle

The following I wrote in response to Katie G.’s request on tips to write a song. I followed these principles and it came out like this.


Start with the feeling, impression, idea, echo of the soul.
Silently be still in that feeling and let the words to start bubble up to the surface.
Gently lay them out and follow where they lead like strands of a spiderweb.
Don’t leave that place or alter the physical state as much as can be helped.
Enjoy the words that come to you, and disregard the words you don’t enjoy.
Ride the glacial wave of creativity until it sets you down.
Proofread it based on the whole of what you have now created.

If you come to a block, wait and see if you can still go forward.
Walk the bridge of patience between the chasm of frustration and whimsy.
Thank God for what He gave you when you’re done.

The Less and the More

The heart wrestles with the less and the more
The less it knows well; its Hell he can tell
How it numbs him and dumbs him
Like a lute it strums him
Shaking his soul’s song sung before
The first conducted baton stroke fell.

The more is his deep-seated longing true
This more– the core with more in store
How it fills him and wills him
Like a like river flowing thrills him
Life that gives its life for more in view
Saving joy for the ocean he will every day adore

O heart betwixt the path of now or always
The choice is yours; make your noise and rejoice
The song He wrote has one sure note
Like a name He skillfully wrote
Awaiting its debut in many plays
When you hear your beloved’s voice

How to Catch a Muse

Last night, I was talking with a friend who was bemoaning a lack of inspiration she felt in her craft-making. I wrote this this morning as an encouragement for her.


How to Catch a Muse
For C. Cook

How can a candle hold the flame?
How can a nest hatch the bird?
How can a pot harness the steam?
How can a poet harmonize the right word?

A wick is dipped in holy oils
Encased in flexible diligence
It bends only to the heat that boils
That melts away wax with effulgence

A mother lays her shell-bound young
In a nest compiled of twigs she recovered
But the warmth of her patience and slow-breath’ed lung
Is what nurtures the egg, ‘til new life is uncovered

A mouth speaks life in word and song
But silence and stillness seals up the dream
To stay and build up strength like steam
That Cooks the heart that suffers long

A rule can be broken for the love that predates it
A word may be chosen for the ear that awaits it.
The prize of the truth may be won by a sower.
Who plants truth in his heart, and pens love flowing o’er

For a flame, like a soul and a heart and a love
Share this common resemblance to the Maker above:
Just as pure and consuming, as living and free
And as one as His image bearer proves Him to be.