Worship for Sunday 20th March 2022, by Rev. Sharon Read

Today we consider the parable of the fig tree.

Call to worship

Come, you who are weary with waiting.
Come, you who are hungry for change and fulfilment.
Come, you who are lost and seeking direction.
Come, to the one who will refresh, revive and redeem you.

STF 323 I will sing the wonderous story

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me;
How He left the realms of glory
For the cross of Calvary.
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Raised me up and gently led me
Back into the narrow way.
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.

He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then at last He’ll bring me over
Saved by grace and mystery
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.



A prayer of approach:

God of grace and growth,
in this season of Lent and with spring blossoming all around us,
we bring to you in word, music and prayer,
our desire to change for the better –
trusting in your patience,
rooting ourselves in your Scriptures,
believing in your love,
appreciating the limitations of time,
and celebrating the gift of life
and all that there is to look forward to.
In Jesus’ name.

A prayer of adoration:

God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer,
you nurture and nourish the soil of our lives,
you watch over us patiently and expectantly,
you fill us with the nutrients we need in order to grow,
and you rejoice when we too,
nurture, protect and watch over others – in your name.

A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness:

Lord God,
forgive us when we are slow to change, but quick to judge;
when we take more from life than we give back;
when we give up on others too soon and offer support too late;
when we deny others the opportunity to grow, and uproot their dreams.
Forgive us and grant us your patience, perseverance and vision,
and inspire us to care for all you have made.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.

Loving God, in whom all things are possible,
for giving us time enough to change and grow:
we thank you with all our heart.
For giving us the desire to change and grow:
we thank you with all our mind.
For giving us the opportunity to change and grow:
we thank you with all our soul.
And for forgiving us when we rush, judge
and deny others those same opportunities:
we thank you with all our strength.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving:

We praise you, living God, that through the life, death and
resurrection of your Son, Jesus,
we have the chance to begin again, as we learn from his words;
we have the opportunity to flourish, as we follow in his footsteps;
we have the calling to serve, as we grow in his likeness;
we have the time to do what is ours to do, as we trust his promises –
slowly but surely, day by day.

STF 370       Breathe on me, breath of God

1 Breathe on me, breath of God:
fill me with life anew,
that I may love as you have loved
and do as you would do.

2 Breathe on me, breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours
to do and to endure.

3 Breathe on me, breath of God;
fulfil my heart’s desire,
until this earthly part of me
glows with your heavenly fire.

4 Breathe on me, breath of God;
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
of your eternity.

Bible Reading Luke 13:1-9 NIV

 Repent or Perish

13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”


In all the years of circuit ministry, Lent has had a focus of themed preaching in the different circuits I have served. Sometimes a biblical theme, a book or a topic and we have journeyed together through Sunday teaching and midweek discussions often with homemade cake for those who haven’t given up cake for Lent that is. There are many reasons why churches and circuits do this, our own circuit is looking at different themes during our evening zoom every Sunday. Please check the website for further information and join us. In following a theme, we can miss a nugget of the gospel that can challenge us and shake us to think about the life we lead with Christ, how we serve our local church and reach out to our community around us. This week there is a tiny parable. A blink and you miss it. The parable of the fig tree. A parable we don’t often mention or teach about.

The parable of the fig tree challenges us to think about our own lives and that of our churches and communities. If you are a member of my congregation, you will know that me and gardening do not go hand in hand so I am no expert on this. This fig tree, the one that has stood and not produced figs was in a favoured position. It was in the vineyard. It stood an average chance of survival despite its planting in shallow soil. The man wasn’t asking the fig tree for anything extraordinary. It wasn’t asking it to produce bananas or pineapples, it was just looking for some sign of producing its fruit – the fig. The man just wanted the tree to produce the fruit it was meant to produce….what it was grown for. It was asked to produce figs and the man kept checking in for 3 years. In the same way, God asks of us to use the gifts and skills we have been given for Him. Nothing more and nothing less. Don’t try to be an opera singer if you can hold a musical note. Don’t try to do anything mathematical if you can’t add up. Don’t try to be something you are not. You are asked to be who God created you to be and who calls you to be – nothing more and nothing less.

We are told that the tree was to be cut down because it had not been useful. It leaves us with the searching question are we being useful? Are we using our gifts?

There is also a warning – this tree was only taking, taking the nutrients from the soil and the atmosphere around it and producing nothing. It was receiving but not producing or giving. It is said that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who take out more than they put in and those who put in more than they take out.

The good news of this parable is that we read about the gospel of the second chance. A fig tree normally takes 3 years to mature. If it doesn’t produce fruit by then, it is likely not to do so. But this fig tree is given a second chance. Maybe it’s a late developer, a slow learner, taking life in the scenic route. With Jesus we get the second chance. And another. And another. There will be a day though when we will face the choices and decisions that we make.

As we read the parable of the fig tree, let us consider what are the gifts and skills that we have. Are we using them for Jesus to use us in our daily life? Are we giving and receiving? As a church, are we making appropriate use of the gifts and skills that we have and are we producing fruit? What about the community that our local church serves, how are we impacting the life around us?

The owner of the fig tree showed immense patience as he waited for the fig tree to produce its fruit. We do not know if it ever did. One of the joys I have witnessed over recent years has been prayers answered, people volunteering, donations and funding coming into a wonderful project at Moston and the gifts of baby baskets to much needed new mums who do not have anything. As a basket is created of gifts to mum and basics for baby and carefully wrapped and prayed over, smiles appear on the faces of volunteers and grateful faces of midwives and health visitors who collect a generous bundle of essentials to take to the home of an expectant mum. Baby basket volunteers work hard, thought beyond the box during restrictions to continue to provide essential gifts. We continue to provide information of who we are and how to find us one day, and we prayerfully wait patiently in case a mum or a child wants to know more about the God who answered their prayer and was provided for.

The parable of the fig tree provides a reminder of the second chance – what are our gifts and skills? How do we offer that in our daily life as we witness to Christ in all that we do? How are we using our skills and gifts in our local church and in our circuit? How are we producing the fruit that God calls us to be in the unique setting we find ourselves in? How are we impacting our community? Are we giving and receiving?

Poem: The fig tree

Three times the vines have flowered and budded.
Three times their grapes have drunk the sun.
Three times the vats have brimmed and flooded,
But from the fig, fruit there’s none.

Three years its roots have delved the darkness
Draining goodness from the earth
Feeding just leaves, whose sheer starkness
Declare no harvest – only dearth.

‘Too long, this tree, has scorned our tending.
Ungrateful fig! You waste good soil.
Away with you! My patience’s ending 
We’ll plant a tree more worth our toil.’

‘Sir, please give it one more season
I will mulch and tend it well.
If this fails, you’ll have good reason
Your barren, sterile fig to fell.’

Lord, we see that we’re that fig tree,
And from us you seek a crop.
Your compassion feeds us tenderly
But some day your care may stop.

With great love you keep on beckoning,
Encourage us to yield much fruit;
To refuse brings on that reckoning
When the axe is laid to root.

By Don Dowling

Questions to ponder:

How are you producing fruit and using the gifts that God has given you?

Are there things you could do in the life of your local church?

Are there things you could volunteer to do in the circuit?

How is your local church serving its community and what is your part?


Prayer of Dedication

We recognise that financial gifts are paid by standing order to the church and to the circuit and so we offer a prayer on those gifts given via our bank as well as when we are in our buildings:

God of all life,
we give back these gifts to you,
tokens of our work, our time, our loyalty.
May your blessing be upon them and upon our lives,
and may we be continually led to see how we may serve you more effectively;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Song: Change my heart O God

Change my heart oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart oh God
May I be like You

You are the potter
I am the clay
Mold me and make me
This is what I pray

Prayers of Intercession

God of all, 
we weep for the pain of our broken world.
In a dry and weary land where there is no water,
and where our choices often lead to pain, not joy,
we cry to you for healing.
Hungry for hope, we look to you 
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God.
Feed us and strengthen us. 

God of all,
we mourn the senseless loss of life.
As a boat carrying refugees capsizes off the coast of Libya,
we long for governments to create a fair and humane settlement programme.
While we watch and pray, we remember the dead and seek justice
and we recommit to opening our hearts and homes –
saving who we can and when we can,
reaching out to others with the generosity we have received from you.
Hungry for hope, we look to you
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God.
Feed us and strengthen us. 

God of all,
we lament the failure of peace-making and peacekeeping. 
As war rages across Ukraine and fresh fighting breaks out in the Dafur region of Sudan,
and hunger spreads across the land and people starve in war zones,
as armed groups attack civilians in Ethiopia,
and acts of brutality are committed against the innocent – here and elsewhere,
we long for the protection of the vulnerable.
We pray for the safety of journalists telling the truth in war zones,
for the freedom of voices that challenge the status quo,
for the laying down of arms and for the end of armed conflict. 
Hungry for hope, we look to you
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God.
Feed us and strengthen us. 

God of all,
we despair at our disregard for the welfare of our precious planet.
As demonstrators gather in Brazil
to stand for the earth against destructive environmental bills, 
we pray for wisdom and longsightedness to prevail.
As our world struggles with the challenges of conflict, war and climate change,
we know the darkness of the human heart and our desire for self-aggrandisement. 
Fill us with your love.
Send out roots down deep into your word,
and when the moment comes for us to use our influence for good,
may we be ready to answer your call.
Hungry for hope, we look to you
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God.
Feed us and strengthen us. 

God of all,
we long for peace of mind and heart.
as children of war struggle with trauma.
We know too that many are struggling in our neighbourhoods and families:
people who are fearful for the future
lonely, bereaved or ill in mind or body.
In silence we name before you the people we know who need your healing.
May the needs of each person be fed with kindness and love. 
Hungry for hope
we look to you
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God: 
All: Feed us and strengthen us. 

God of all,
we hold on to your promise that you will come close to us when we call on you.
So, we lift up our hands and speak your name in all the troubles of this world
and in the waywardness of our own hearts.
In the shadow of your wings may we find rest,
fresh vision for the future and strength to travel on. 
Hungry for hope, we look to you
for the bread of heaven and the water of life.
We call on you our God.
Feed us and strengthen us. Amen

Hymn: Lord of the church, we pray for our renewing (Timothy Dudley-Smith)

Lord of the church we pray for our renewing
Christ over all our undivided aim
Fire of the Spirit burn for our enduing
Wind of the Spirit fan the living flame
We turn to Christ amid our fear and failing
The will that lacks the courage to be free
The weary labours all but unavailing
To bring us nearer what a church should be

Lord of the church we seek a Father’s blessing
A true repentance and a faith restored
A swift obedience and a new possessing
Filled with the Holy Spirit of the Lord
We turn to Christ from all our restless striving
Unnumbered voices with a single prayer-
The living water for our souls’ reviving
In Christ to live and love and serve and care

Lord of the church we long for our uniting
True to one calling by one vision stirred
One cross proclaiming and one creed reciting
One in the truth of Jesus and His word
So lead us on till toil and trouble ended
One church triumphant one new song shall sing
To praise His glory risen and ascended
Christ over all the everlasting King

Closing prayer:

Lord God, you look for growth and fruit;
help us this week to grow closer to you,
and to be patient when we have to wait –
as you are patient with us. 

Prayers and poem are from Roots

© ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2022. Reproduced with permission.