March 7, 2010
Third Sunday in Lent
Luke 13:1-9

In late June 2002, Caesar Barber filled lawsuits against McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Barber claims they sold him the food that made him obese and that they should be held accountable for “wrecking his life.”

Gregory Rhymes and eight other overweight New York children filed suit against McDonald’s Corp. According to a January 2003 article in Capitalism Magazine, “The lawyer acting on behalf of these outsized teens is Samuel Hirsch. He says people are too dumb to know what’s good for them and that McDonald’s has an obligation to make known their food is unhealthy, just like they should have warned old Stella Liebeck that it’s not a good idea to get in a car and stick a cup of hot coffee between your legs while you’re trying to get the lid off.”

Because of such lawsuits, congressmen passed the “Cheeseburger Bill” through the House of Representatives in 2004 and 2005. It couldn’t get past the Senate; but bill or no bill, the principle seems in order. People should take responsibility for their own actions. We cannot keep blaming others for the choices we make.
God expects people to take responsibility for their actions. Jesus says so in our text, and Lenten season reminds us it’s the case.|

God Holds Us Accountable for Our Actions
It’s a common enough question, “What about those guys over there?” Even Peter asked the question about John when he was having breakfast with Jesus (John 21:21). We tend to want to turn the attention away from ourselves. Jesus refuses to let that happen.

Twice (Luke 13:3-5) Jesus tells the questioners, “Except you repent.” As much as we might want to turn our attention on others, even blame others, Jesus requires us to face the truth. We are responsible for our choices. He may have had Ezekiel 18 in mind. Ezekiel reminded Israel, “The soul that sins, he shall die.”

These are actual comments from insurance claims:

“The other car collided with mine without giving warning of its intention.”

“As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.”

“An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished.”

It’s always someone else’s fault.

Repentance Is the Appropriate Personal Response
While His listeners wanted to point to other people, Jesus points to repentance. It’s as if He’s saying, “Your responsibility is not to find others to blame; it’s to repent.” What God calls for is a 180-degree turn. He wants us to turn and go the other direction. We turn from our sin and to God.

In the Old Testament, the image is that of “return.” While the term “return” is often an image of Israel re-inhabiting Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, it points more to a spiritual return than a physical return. The image is “return to Me,” not merely return to a place but to a Person.

A call to repentance is a call to return to God. God wants us to come back home—to Him.

If we don’t, He’ll be patient, because…

God Specializes in Second Chances
The closing paragraph of our text (Luke 13:6-9) is a simple story of a fruitless fig tree. The owner expected figs; after all, that’s what fig trees produce; but no fruit was there. He commanded a servant to cut it down. Instead, the servant pleaded for mercy and was given another season to produce.

When God calls for the fruit of repentance, He expects repentance. If He doesn’t get response the first time, He seems open to give us another chance; but it’s a second chance, not an unlimited chance. He gives another season.

In the Lenten season, we are invited to look carefully at ourselves. We are invited to repent. Maybe this is the second Lent or third, but it would behoove us not to assume we have unlimited seasons to produce the fruit He desires.


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