Circle the Stories: Parables of the Great Parabler

Monday, March 7, 2022

Producing Good Fruit, by Christine V. Hides

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. Luke 6:43–45

Reflection: Here Jesus is winding down the Sermon on the Plain. The ultimate preacher, once he has grabbed the attention of the congregation with challenging blessings and woes, he makes two points about relationships, mercy, and judgment. In today’s verses we sense a conclusion, but in true preacherly form he uses the wind down to move listeners to action: go produce good fruit.

Amy-Jill Levine reminds us not to domesticate the multivalent nature of the parables that were meant to challenge those who heard them, “We might be better of thinking less about what [the parable’s] “mean” and more about what they can “do”: remind, provoke, refine, confront, disturb…”[1] How do we identify trees (especially after being reminded in the verses just before that we have logs in our eyes)?

When my family was looking for a new home, I told my realtor to only show us houses that had at least one tree suitable for a swing. Excited by the oak in the side yard, we moved into our house on the edge of the forest preserve in April, before the tell-tale leaves of the invasive Buckthorn on the edge of the forest created an impenetrable wall. The fruit of the Buckthorn is a berry that birds struggle to digest. Over the last 13 years, together with the forest preserve, we have managed to remove hundreds of Buckthorn trees and thousands of seedlings behind my house. Millions of seeds lie dormant in the ground and only vigilance and hard work will keep them from sprouting and taking over again. Hickories, hawthorns, and oaks once hidden in the bramble have been revealed—a process of transformation I hope honors God’s creation. I suspect though that bad trees might be easier to identify than what sometimes takes root in the heart.

Lord of the abundant harvest, uproot us, transform us, create in us an orchard of love.

[1]Levine, Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi, page 4.

March 7, 2022

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