New Zealand terror attacks at Christchurch mosques
The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday in Lent according to a Prayer Book for Australia is Luke 13:1-9
1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 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?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
Talk of recent killings of pilgrims by Pilate at the temple gives Jesus a chance to say something about the situation in Palestine that was current for him and the first audiences of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus makes the point that these catastrophes were not punishment for bad behaviour. Jesus enforces that all inhabitants of Palestine contributed to the political hatred that saw only some murdered. Jesus points out that the animosity towards Rome, left unchecked, leads to death: “You will all perish just as they did.”
The parable that follows echoes the sermon of the Baptist: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." The fruits of repentance, remember, were sharing, honesty, and mutual respect. Unless the barren tree repents of injustice, prejudice and poisonous hatred, it will be cut down.
In the light of the recent massacre in New Zealand where a far-right, white supremacist murdered 49 Muslims at prayer in two mosques, I wonder how Jesus’ comments in Sunday’s lectionary would relate to us?
The innocent are clearly the victims who lost their lives in the attack.
Whilst none of us pulled the trigger that was fatal to our religious cousins, any of our own thoughts, attitudes, comments, or jokes that reflect Islamophobic, anti-immigrant tendencies make us culpable of the massacre we mourn. Unless we repent of any of our own prejudices, bigotry, intolerance, racism, or hatred, we will be cut down like a barren tree that bears no fruit (Luke 13.7).
Bishop Murray, in a letter to clergy, writes that our baptismal and confirmation liturgy reminds us to “defend the weak and seek peace and justice”. Bishop Murray says that this reminds
“… all of us of our call as Christians to care for the vulnerable members of our society and do all we can to create communities where all can live in dignity and peace. Let’s hope that politicians and media can see the consequences of rhetoric, especially surrounding immigration, that normalises a fear of difference and that makes racial hatred seem acceptable. I hope this incident challenges a government that seems to be increasingly complacent about, and even tolerant of, right wing extremism.”