Septuagesima Sermon B.

Jesus said to the Jews: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none;  cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, til I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well;  and if not, then after that thou Shalt cut it down." Luke 13: 6-9.

This parable of the unfruitful tree the Saviour has brought forth as one example of how many years the Master of the vineyard spares those unfruitful trees before He commands them to be cut down. And we surmise from all aspects of the matter that this unfruitful tree was a green tree, for no one spares dry trees so long in the garden; but as long as one fig tree remains green and bears leaves and flowers, the Master of the vineyard wants to spare it in that hope and expectation that if, however, this fig tree would become fruitful. But; the Master of the vineyard will not spare that unfruitful fig tree very long, for we hear what John says, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees:  therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and oast into the fire." But we hear also from this parable, which has been brought forth in Luke 13, that the Master of the vineyard had sought fruit for three years from that fig tree, but found none. And then He said to the Dresser of the vineyard, "Cut it down; why cumbereth It the ground?" But the Dresser of the vineyard began to pray that the Lord would spare it yet one year, saying? "Lord, let it alone this year also, til I shall dig about it, and dung it." Oh, wonderful Dresser!  how merciful You are and patient with this unfruitful tree; although this tree stands in the way and cumbers the ground, just the same You want to yet dig around it and dung it. But if this tree does not even then bear fruit when it is allowed to stand yet one year, then it will inevitably be cut down and cast into the fire. So merciful is the Dresser of the vineyard now to that green and unfruitful fig tree, that He spares it three years, and yet a fourth also, while He can dig around it and dung it. But do not, you dry tree, take for yourself any false hope from this green tree, for the Saviour has said, "For it they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:31) Many a dry tree imagines that he also will be spared because the green tree has not been cut down. But be not in that hope that you will be spared, you dry tree: instead, you will be cut down at the first opportunity, for you have been ready to burn for a long time. The devil needs firewood in the north country, where there is such a long winter and many months of freezing weather. How else would the old man devil survive here in the north country if there were not firewood in the forest? But neither will he take a green tree as the first firewood, for a green tree does not burn as well as a dry tree. But dry juniper and stumps he takes as the first firewood. Therefore the dry tree need not think that he will be spared.  But the green tree will also be cut down if it does not now begin to bear fruit, when the Master of the vineyard comes the fourth time and finds no fruit. The Saviour speaks also of those decayed trees which bring forth evil fruit, and such trees which begin to decay from the root the Master of the vineyard has never spared. The Lord laments also in some place in the Scripture, that He has done much work upon His vineyard and has not found anything but bitter grapes, and surely there are such here also. But of those branches of the vine which bear bitter grapes, He says in the Revelation that He will put those bitter grapes into the winepress of the wrath of God, and blood from that winepress shall flow by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs when He presses those bitter grapes in the winepress of His wrath.  The Lord speaks also in some places in the Scripture that the high trees shall be brought down and the low trees shall be exalted: for the high trees prevent the sun from shining upon the low tree, therefore the Lord intends to bring down the high trees. When a hard wind blows, the high trees fall first, no matter how thick they would be. But a decayed tree which bears evil fruit and bitter grapes is cut down and cast into the fire.

Because now the Gospel for today speaks of the vineyard in which are both grapevines and fig trees, all laborers in the vineyard should pray that great Master of the vineyard, that He would spare those unfruitful trees yet this year as long as they remain green, that the great Dresser of the vineyard would dig ditches around them and dung them, that - who knows - they might become fruitful. And you unfruitful fig tree, remember once that this is now the third year in which the Master of the vineyard has come seeking fruit from you, you unfruitful fig tree. The Master of the vineyard has already said to the Dresser of the vineyard: "Cut It down; why cumbereth it the ground?" But the merciful Dresser of the vineyard is now praying in your behalf, that you would be spared yet this year. If you do not become fruitful within this time, then you will be cut down. Remember this now, you unfruitful fig tree. And you merciful Dresser of the vineyard, pray yet in behalf of this unfruitful fig tree, that he would be spared yet one year. Hear, You merciful Dresser of the vineyard, the sigh of the sorrowful ones. Our Father, etc.

The Gospel: Matthew 20: 1-16.

We heard from the Gospel how the Master of the vineyard hired laborer, into His vineyard, from morning until the afternoon. And we see from the sun that now it is already afternoon and the last times; it is not likely to be long before evening comes. But just the same, some still stand idle at the market place and say, "No man hath hired us." And the Master of the vineyard says to them, "Go ye also in the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive." Let us see what they now do when the Master of the vineyard has hired them. We have before spoken of the laborers in the vineyard, and now when the laborers have labored, we should consider at this time: What fruit comes from the vineyard and what kind of fruit is it? First: Does much fruit come from the vineyard? Second: What kind of fruit is it which is now growing in the vineyard? May the great Master of the vineyard find some kind of fruit when He comes to seek! He laments through the prophet that He has not before found anything else but bitter grapes, but now He awaits better fruit than before.

First consideration: Does much fruit come from the vineyard? We do not yet know before all the branches of the vine are cut. Not many grapes have ripened yet and an unripe grape is tasteless. In our opiniont surely some grapes are in a good beginning, if they would be allowed to grow in peace. But crows and magpies want to spoil the branches of the vine; truly they cannot eat those grapes, but they dung upon them. And who is the person who can eat such grapes, upon which crows and magpies have dunged? And I think that the devil himself has put them into the vineyard to spoil the grapes. There are also such worms, which are called the dogs of Hades, which gnaw on the grapes and do much damage. But I think that the moth, whose larvae the dogs of Hades are, should not lay eggs anymore as much as before in the vineyard. It is one large and, according to the world's mind, beautiful moth from which the worms come, which are called the dogs of Hades.This is the worm which will never die, which is written about in the Revelation, for it will gnaw their consciences forever, who here have not been grafted into that true vine. But also those grapes of the vine and leaves of the vine which have been grafted into that true vine, this same worm wants to gnaw before the grapes have ripened.  But the more the branches of the vine suck sap from the vine, the faster they ripen, and then the worm no longer wants to gnaw them. But our hope is that those grapes, which are now growing in the vineyard, shall soon ripen if the Lord will give more moisture from heaven and allow His merciful sun to shine. But worse than that, the grapes which are now growing in God's vineyard will not all become perfect. Some will be spoiled by worms, some the crows and magpies will dung upon, some grapes the frost will destroy, and in that way one part of the grapes go to waste. The flowers of grapes are surely beautiful at Saint John's time, but when harvest time comes and the branches of the vine are cut, then it is seen that there are not so many grapes as there were flowers in the beginning. If you would go to count those flowers which at Saint John's time were in the most beautiful bloom, then you would see that scarcely half of those bear fruits: in August there are not as many grapes as there were flowers at Saint John's time. What does this come from? It comes from this, that spring frost killed some flowers and early rain spoiled some. For the nature of a flower is such, that not a single fruit will come from those without seed. When a flower is now in most beautiful bloom, then there is such a seed in them by which the flower will become fruitful; and this seed is in all flowers, be it the flower of the grape or the flower of the cloudberry or the flower of the field. If rain now comes at the time of full bloom, then the flower is ruined in that way, that the rain takes the seed away from the flower; and such flowers do not become fruitful, but remain an empty shell. When you see such heads in which there is an empty shell, then know that during the time of full bloom, the rain has taken away the seed which is in all flowers. And thus many of those seeds go to waste, which the Lord of the seed has in the beginning sown into the ground. The flowers of the grapes are also sensitive to the cold, as are also the flowers of the cloudberry; and therefore one part of them goes to waste during the time of full bloom and another part during the time of harvest, so that few grapes remain in the end for the Master of the Vineyard. Although the Master of the vineyard has hired so many laborers to dig ditches and also to dung the roots of the fig trees and to water the roots of the flowers, just the same His trouble goes to naught, if now henceforth more fruit does not come from the vineyard than has come up to this time. And surely the enemy rejoices over that, that the trouble of the Master of the vineyard goes to naught, but the Master of the vineyard becomes sorrowful over that, and all the faithful laborers in God's vineyard weep when they see how many of those flowers of the grapes go to waste, which were in most beautiful bloom at Saint John's time.

Second consideration: What kind are the red grapes which finally remain? The Lord has lamented formerly in the Old Testament that He has not found other than bitter grapes in His vineyard: and who knows what kind the grapes are which are now growing. But they have not yet quite ripened; but we hope that if the Lord allows His merciful sun to shine and prunes the unfruitful branches away so that the sun can better shine upon those branches which bear fruit, that they will bear more abundant fruit. When the Lord purges them, as He has promised that He wants to purge those who bear fruit, then we hope that the few grapes who are growing here will become acceptable to the Lord when they ripen fully. We hope that the Lord will taste fruit of the vine which has grown in the north country. Therefore grow, you red grapes, grow and ripen before frost comes. Soon the angel of death will come to cut the branches of the vine. All grapes which are then bitter as the horseberry and the serpent's berry and pig's berry[1], them the Master of the vineyard will put into the winepress of His wrath and squeeze them so that the blood from the winepress of God's wrath will flow by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. But may the great Dresser of the vineyard, Who has through great trouble hired laborers into His vineyard and dug ditches and dunged the roots of the fig trees, protect the few grapes which are now growing, which have been grafted into that true vine, from whose heart they suck moisture. Protect them from snowstorms, frost, and tempests, that they could ripen before harvest time comes, that the Dresser of the vineyard would have a few red grapes to put on the table when visitors come from Heaven! Hear, You great Master of the vineyard, the prayer of those laborers who are in heavy labor. Amen!



[1] Sianpuola = a berry that is very like lingonberry (cowberry) but has a hard seed in it. All these 3 arts of berries (hevosenpuola, käärmeenpuola) are rejected as not suitable for food of man. No lexikon is found, where these old Finnish names of berries can be found. LK