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Monday, March 30, 2015

Today’s Reading | Mark 11:12–25

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 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. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (NRSV)

Reflection
What I love about Mark’s multilayered story about Jesus cursing the fig tree and his upturning of the temple is how vividly it illustrates Jesus’ humanity. This is a tired, hungry, frustrated, and angry Jesus, who clearly has become impatient, and even intolerant, of the people, the politics, and the hypocrisy of so many. Doesn’t this feel like today’s world, and isn’t it frustrating and infuriating? 

Jesus’ raw emotions and actions are understandable and relatable to how we may feel when we observe our violent world. What a powerful gift of connectivity and understanding Jesus is giving us by sharing this display of human feelings and behavior while cursing the fig tree and “cleansing” the temple with such passion. Yet Jesus doesn’t leave us without an answer of how we might bear more fruit, not just leaves, through authentic prayer and forgiveness.

My recent journey into the world of professional coaching has greatly heightened my awareness to the feelings, frustrations, and stuck patterns of my clients. Often to help clients shift their perspective, I will ask them, “How would it feel to just let your anger and frustration go?” A powerful concept, but letting things go can be very hard, and for many it might entail forgiving someone for a perceived hurt or harm. Ironic, isn’t it, that we all want forgiveness yet we don’t easily forgive. How can we become a more forgiving spirit? Jesus’ lesson is to learn and practice the powerful combination of prayer and forgiveness. This is the bridge to filling our hearts and soul to harvest the fruit that is his love.

Prayer
Lord, thank you for the amazing gift of life. Please help me deepen my prayer practice so that I become a more forgiving spirit and evolve into the person I am supposed to be. Amen.

Written by Cris Ohr, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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