Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fig Tree

Monday, March 29, 2010 -- Monday in Holy Week

Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 957)
Psalms 51:1-18(9-20) (morning)       69:1-23 (evening)
Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12
2 Corinthians 1:1-7 
Mark 11:12-25          

Note:  Our Eucharist at St. Paul's today will be at 12:15
One more Note:  As I look at the Archives for my blog, I don't see the posts that I wrote, and thought I sent to you, from my trip to the Holy Land between March 9 and March 13.  Can someone tell me if you received those?  Thanks.

I was very weary this morning, so I continued to sleep.  I'll write a brief reflection.

Today in Mark's gospel, the parable of the fig tree frames Jesus' visit to the Temple where he drove out the vendors and overturned the tables of the money changers.

At this season, the figs in the Holy Land are in leaf, and they put on what is called "false figs."  These buds will fall off and later the tree will bear fruit.  If a tree has no false figs, it will bear no fruit.  It will be barren.

That helps explain Jesus' cursing of the fig tree which had no figs, "for it was not the season for figs."  It had "nothing but leaves," which means the tree had no potential for fruit.  The fig is sometimes also a symbol for the nation or the people of Israel.

Then Jesus goes to the Temple.  Near the main public entrance there are recently uncovered arches that housed niches for shopkeepers.  The shopkeepers would have been selling various items for pilgrims and travelers.  There was also an elaborate business in selling sacrificial animals which met the inspection code as being unblemished.  And there was a money changing service to convert Roman coinage into Jewish currency without the image of the Emperor on it.  Jesus attacks all of this commerce, citing the prophets' words:  "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers."

Mark connects these stories.  There seems to be a point.  When something has lost its potential to be what it is intended to be and to do what it is intended to do, it is worth overturning or destroying.  It no longer fills its intention.

In a postscript, the next morning the disciples note with alarm that the fig tree had withered.  Jesus invites their faith.  He says, "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you."  From the road between Bethany and Jerusalem, he may have been looking at the Herodium, the palace fortress of Herod the Great, and at the mountain next to it, whose top had been removed shovel by shovel, and taken to Herod's fortress in order to build and raise it high above any other in the region.  One mountain had been moved to make another, a fortress.  Jesus might have been telling his disciples that Herod's fortress, and his violent reign, can also be thrown into the sea, with the persevering faith that believes, while digging one shovel after another.

Having cursed the fig tree without potential, and overturned the profane commerce of the Temple, and invited faith for the removal of Herod and his mountain, then Jesus says this:  "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." 

What does that say about our attitude and spirit, especially when we find ourselves in conflict with something we find without potential, or profane, or corrupt and damaging.  Can we do that work with courageous, active faith, while maintaining a forgiving spirit throughout?



Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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