By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
Click on the image to follow along with our 2021 congregational devotional!
Mark 13:28-29: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates."
What can we learn from the fig tree?
I’m not a winter person. I grew up in Michigan, where winter exists. And now I live in Wisconsin. Winter is long, cold and dark. I like sledding, but don’t do winter sports. I like the look of fresh fallen snow, but don’t like the shoveling. I don’t like being cold.
But there hasn't been a winter like this one. By this time last year, the word “Coronavirus” was a gentle whisper in the air, hardly a blip on the radar. Who could possibly have foreseen that by this time we’d be living through a winter of isolation? Long days with late sunrises and sunsets starting at 4:45. Our only interactions mediated by facemasks, even those interactions bearing some risk. Compound the pandemic with the fact that we were witness to an armed insurrection invading our nation’s Capitol, and you have a winter like nothing before. As a person who doesn’t like winter, this winter is already especially long (and it’s not even February!).
But Jesus tells us to learn from the fig tree.
We’re now three weeks into our sermon series on “Words of Faith," and on Sunday we were privileged to hear our Communications Coordinator Lexie Ofe share her reflections on the word “learn."
What have we learned? The litany of things we have learned over the past year is well known – how to connect online, how to worship together over the internet, how to properly wear a mask, how to survive a pandemic…
And what can we learn from the fig tree? “As soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.” Winter does not last forever, and before it ends, we can see the glimpses to come. We know this because we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen this happen every year. The snow melts and the buds form on the trees. The days get longer, and the sun sets later. The temperatures tick up. We’ve seen this before. Summer follows winter, Easter follows Good Friday, life follows death. What can we learn from the fig tree? That nothing is forever, and summer follows spring follows winter. We can learn to trust the ordained cycles, and trust in what is to come.
I trust in the vaccine. The buds growing on the branches that let us know that summer is near. I trust that, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, people can be good and can rise to the occasion to triumph over evil. I trust these things are true and will be true. But I also know that, unlike the inevitability of the seasons, we need to do the work to prepare for the harvest of summer. Our trust in the vaccine won’t mean anything unless we encourage our neighbors to take the vaccine. Our trust in the goodness of people won’t mean anything unless we take active steps to encourage goodness and justice.
From the fig tree we can learn to watch for the signs of summer, but we need to remember that the summer we seek isn’t found just by watching and waiting. It’s about persevering, acting, pushing, fighting, and creating the summer that we know can come.