How do we respond to another catastrophic event?
Drought, floods, fires, child abuse and the mosque shooting in Christchurch all challenge us to think about the question, why them and why not me? Are they more sinful than I am and therefore deserve such punishment?
Or is this simply a sign of a broken world, broken by the actions of people like us, human beings who have attempted to twist the created world so that it does what we want it to?
If the latter is true, what can we, individually and collectively do about it?
Tough question. Jesus answers it in the first instance with a comment, “Don’t think you are immune from bad stuff happening.” It happens and it has little to do with whether you are Christian or Muslim, farmer or house owner, adult or child – it just happens.
Yet perhaps there is something you can do.
In the vineyard we have a metaphor for possibility and hope. The figtree is barren, it gives no fruit. The owner, seeking produce to sell, demands it be cut down and replaced by another that will be productive. The orchardist, the farmer, you; says know. Give me and it a little time and let’s see if we can change the direction, turn this around, get the tree doing what it is created to do.
Interestingly the tree has not given fruit for 3 years. If you cut it down and replace it, there will be no fruit until the tree matures, at least another 3 years. Our intervention to fix, change, stop takes time and we will lose while we do so.
The orchardist goes for two strategies – non-intervention (cutting down and replanting) and regenerative practices. He leaves the tree where it is and uses natural processes, TLC and manure, to allow the tree to renew and regenerate.The situation with the tree was the result of the tree being forced to act in response to human intervention, and that left to its own natural processes it would do what it was meant to do. He leaves it in place, cares not only for the tree but the soil which had been depleted by season after season of sustaining life.
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if the processes of non-intervention and regenerative practices will work in the human sphere. People are disconnected and disrupted by technological change, be that war and its subsequent dislocation of people and livelihoods; artificial intelligence and the subsequent loss of jobs and economic certainty; the influx of people who are different to us and have practices and beliefs unfamiliar and frightening and more; the constant uncertainty of life and the future.
The intervention of science and technology has disrupted our connection with the soil, with the natural processes of life and has left us captains of our own destiny without a productive and vibrant soil out of which to grow.
The action of the farmer may suggest:
- Instead of developing more protocols and laws, we engage one on one with those who are different to us and find the natural point of oneness with them,
- Instead of driving production and growth on the land we allow its natural processes to sustain it and us,
- Instead of intervening through experts and professionals we wait another year to see what happens.
Jesus sets us a metaphor for life, a little more hands off and a little more wait and see – an anticipatory spirituality in tune with the first people and the land we now live on.