Summary: This sermon is concerning the story of the Fig Tree. The fig tree represented Israel, the church and each of us as Christians.

Dried Sticks or Flourishing Vine

By Pastor Jim May

On Thursday morning Jesus entered Jerusalem as a crowd stood beside the streets waving palm branches and throwing them down as a carpet for him to ride on. Others took off their outer coats and cast them at his feet as well. He entered Jerusalem that day as a conquering hero for all the people thought that he had come to set them free from the bonds of Rome. At last their Messiah had come and they would be a free nation once again.

Later that day, Jesus entered into the temple and cleansed it of the merchandisers who had set up shop to sell “sacrifices”.

The outer court of the temple was called the court of the Gentiles. Here there was a large bazaar, a kind of outdoor shopping mall, set under tents and under the cover of the temple court itself. It was there for the sale of sacrificial animals and birds, and also a money-exchange for changing foreign coins for the Jewish half-shekels.

Jesus did not condemn the sale of what was necessary for the sacrifices, but he condemned the place and the manner in which it was done. The shopping mall, with all its

hustle and bustle, was positioned right at the very doors of the temple. God’s House of Prayer seemed more like a sideshow than a temple.

The Court of the Gentiles was so crowded with businesses that there was no room for anyone to come and pray or worship.

The idea of these places of business was a good one, but it’s location and it’s practices of cheating the people ruined its purpose. We must never get the idea in our head that “the ends justify the means”.

We see this idea at work in the church of our day when ministers will condone all sorts of worldly activity in the church just for the sake of drawing a crowd. We open book stores almost inside the sanctuary, hoping to sell a few more things to ‘support the ministry’.

Let me tell you that if God is behind what we are doing, he will make a way for the support to come. We don’t have to come up with gimmicks or ways to get profits on our own. All that sort of thing does is cheapen the message of the gospel and put the church into the same category as big business. I’ve found that to be the case so often when people who go to churches where this kind of thing is going on, often can’t find a pastor who has the time to minister to them one-on-one.

I believe that in many of our churches, the job title of Senior Pastor should be changed to church CEO since he is often far more involved in making decisions based upon the business of the church and not upon the spiritual well-being and needs of the congregation. When a church is too big for the pastor to have time for the people, then the church is simply too big, period. Assistant Pastors often take up that role, and that’s okay, but too often, you can’t get anyone to be the minister for you that you need right now.

Some churches allow all sorts of worldly activity right on the platform and behind the pulpit with the idea in mind that whatever it takes to draw the crowd has to be of God.

If that’s true, then why not get the most popular Rock Band like AC/DC, Metallica, or the latest hit group whose name is “Puddle of Mud”. Let them wear their death clothing, with more metal pierced into their face than you have in your car; put a few references to love, a higher power, or even say God, once in a while and there you have it – a Christian Rock Band that will draw teenagers by the hundreds or even thousands. (Some churches are already doing this)

You can also make your services into a hype-filled pep rally complete with flag waving, dancers and pom poms of a cheerleading squad. (Oh wait, I can’t make fun of that one. After all we allowed some of that at our last PCG General Convention in Joplin, Missouri, and its happening in youth camps all over the country this summer. If the national office says its acceptable, then it has to be right. HUH!)

If we are looking for name recognition to draw a crowd to church, why don’t we just call Pope Benedict XVI and let him come to speak for us. After all, no one can draw a crowd like God’s spokesman to the world.

But the church, like the temple in Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, is meant to be a House of Prayer; a place where God’s people can come together to pray, to worship and to touch God and let God touch them.

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