12-5-19 - Good Tree/Good Fruit

(You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday's gospel reading is here.)

John the Baptizer lays into those who wear their religion on their sleeves, but do not allow their hearts and behaviors to change. And his invitation to true repentance comes with a bite: 
“Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Later, Jesus uses the same metaphor, saying that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree good fruit. It seems that judgment awaits us, and we will be judged by the fruit our lives bear.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, the fourth century Bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. Legends about the goodness and generosity of St. Nicholas abound, and over time became conflated with the legend of the "Bishop of the North Pole," Santa Claus. Santa is also known for gift-giving – with conditions: "He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice / gonna find out who’s naughty or nice / Santa Claus is coming to town."

I give thanks for the promise that, as members of God’s household united with Christ, it is his deeds by which we will ultimately be judged (whew!). Yet Jesus also spoke of a judgment and a sorting. So let’s do another inventory today – let’s assess the fruit we bear, the outward evidence of our life, the good and not-so-good. (Get out the journal...)

What is the fruit of your relationships? Name some.
What is the fruit of your work life? Name some.
Your recreational life? Your financial life? Your engagement in activities that help people in need?
What is the fruit of your spiritual life – 
   what are the outward manifestations of your faith and prayer?

How is your health as a tree, emotionally, physically, spiritually? 
Any pruning or fertilizing needed? How might you become more fruitful?

Whether we’re singing, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” or “When the Man Comes Around,” a Johnny Cash song based on Revelation with strong Advent themes (and not a whole lot of grace), I thank God for the greatest gift – freedom from the ax and the fire. God is an arborist extraordinaire, who tends the trees we are and makes us trees of love. In fact, today let's give Bono and B.B. King the last word - they say it all: "When Love Comes to Town."

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