Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Growth. Grow where you are; it’s God’s Plan - Cooperate!

Title: What the Gardener Does

Text: Luke 13:6-9.

FCF: We are supposed to grow. Jesus will make sure that happens.

SO: I’d specifically like to encourage the congregation to take risks in growing – things like committing to some evangelism…


I’m not really much of a gardener. Today is the first Sunday of the Harvest season, and these are my tomatoes. [Show my tomato plant – not one on it!]

I remember the first time I tried to plant a garden. I had just bought my first house in Springfield. I went out and I bought a rotor-tiller, and I spent hours preparing the ground. I turned every bit of soil. I went out and I bought corn, beans, peas, carrots, and some cantaloupe. I made nice little rows, and I labeled everything. Somehow, my entire crop that year consisted of a single melon the size of my fist, and several cherry tomatoes that I think had been left over from the previous year. It was a complete failure. I learned to thank my God that I didn’t have to rely on my crops to feed myself. If I did, I wouldn’t have made it past the age of 12.

But, if I could develop one skill that would change my reading of the Bible – I think that would have to be it. Have you ever noticed how much of what Jesus said comes straight from the garden? Think about it: The Parable of the Soils; The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares; The Parable of the Vineyard Workers; The Parable of the Mustard Seed. These aren’t accidents. Yes, it’s true that a lot of the people in Jesus’ day were farmers, and so in large part I think he was just telling people what they knew – but I think there’s more to it than that. You see, Jesus even told Pharisees – people like me who couldn’t grow a crop to save their lives – parables about the garden.

I think he did it because he wanted to get across a point. He told stories about the garden, because he wanted people to grow. Growing is an organic thing. It involves both conscientious work and yet it still ultimately is up to God for the results. I think garden stories are some of the closest analogies we’ll ever see to the Kingdom this side of the Jordan.

So, with that in mind, I want to read you this parable. But as you listen, I want you to focus on something a little off point.

The point of this parable, as I said last week, is not the plant but the gardener. It’s his effort and his love that keeps us from being cut down.

But this morning, I want you to look at this from a different point of view. You see, if Jesus is the gardener, then we’re clearly the tree. What I want to focus on is what the gardener does with the tree. I want to focus less on how the gardener intercedes, and more on how the gardener goes about getting results.

You see, if we want to have any part in his work, we need to know the plan. As I read, I want you to focus on that – what is it that gardener is trying to do, and how is he going to go about doing it?

READ Luke 13:6-9

" Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”" (Luke 13:6-9, NRSV)

First of all, did you see what his overall goal was? Pretty simple, right? He wants the tree to produce fruit.

Yes, he saves the tree. But, it doesn’t end there. He wants that tree to grow, and he’s going to do anything he can to make it grow.

One of the dangers of believing in our “once saved, always saved” theology is that we think once we’ve entered through the pearly gates, all we need to do is sit back and enjoy it. That has some dangerous consequences.

A friend of mine told me something his son said to him in all earnestness. “Dad,” he said. “I’m not trying to be sacrilegious here, but let’s face it. That sittin’ up in heaven thing just playing the harp? I’m sure that would be great for, Oh say, 2000 years, but don’t you think it would get a little boring after a while?”

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