A Clever Verse for Context
So he said to the gardener (ampelourgos), ‘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?’ (Luke 13:7)
The vine-dresser or gardener (ampelourgos) in Luke’s fig tree parable is unafraid to get his hands dirty. His response to the fig tree’s unfruitfulness is to dig in the dirt and slather on a healthy dose of manure. Part of the fun of a good parable is sorting out who is who in the story. Most often, we tend to read this story an assume that we are the unfruitful fig tree and Jesus is the merciful gardener. Certainly Jesus as the Word Incarnate did do some substantial digging into the very stuff of our humanity, much of it filthy. But parables are open ended. What does it mean for us to take on the role of the vine-dresser? At Jesus’ invitation we are given a chance to examine our hearts and deal with our crap as we continue to grow into the people God created us to be.
The protagonist Trygaeus in Aristophanes’ comedy Peace is a farmer, and even introduces himself to the God Hermes as a good vine-dresser, (ampelourgos). In the play he flies to Olympus on the back of an enormous dung beetle he has kept fed on the excrement of various animals. His desire for peace as a farmer is contrasted with the various politicians and tradesmen who continue to profit from the ongoing war.
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
In what situations have you found yourself practicing self-examination aka working through your crap?
How has this work helped you to grow and flourish?
A Clever Prayer to Close
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.