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A couple of days ago, Carolyn and I were out to dinner with others when the conversation turned to school and, more specifically, our school reports. What comments did you get in your school reports, I wonder? I must confess that for most of the subjects I took in school, one word, or variation of it, regularly appeared in the reports sent to my parents, ‘Andrew shows promise but must try harder.’ ‘Andrew has shown potential to do well if he would apply himself.’ ‘Andrew needs to do better.’ Does that ring a bell? I think it might have been similar for many young teenagers, no matter where they are being educated.  But, more important, was it true? How many of us, I wonder, wish we had worked that little bit harder when we had the chance? How much more could we have achieved? How different might things be today if only, if only, if only!

Sadly we don’t often get the chance to make up for past mistakes, not in terms of academic qualifications anyway. However, I did sometimes remind my mother when similar conversations or comments about my school years come up that I must have been a late bloomer, as I now hold a doctorate from one of the top 25 universities in the world! Thankfully when it comes to what matters most in life, it’s a different story. Jesus tells 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)

The gardener (vinedresser in some translations) asks for one year’s reprieve, in which the fig tree might bear some fruit. Jesus goes further still, asking the Father to give us not just one chance but as many as it takes to finally fulfill our potential and service. Though we repeatedly go against God and so upset him through our failure to grow and bear fruit, he never gives up believing the harvest will come good in the end.

Have you fulfilled your potential in the service of Christ? Are the fruits of the spirit evident in your life today? John, in his gospel, reminds us, ‘Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me, you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4-5) By remaining connected to Jesus, we are sustained and bear fruit.

This could be our prayer this week. ‘Gracious God, nurture the seed of faith within me. Help me to grow closer to you and Christ, and so cultivate within me the fruits you hunger to see through the grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen. (Nick Fawcett)

Shalom to you, my friend.