Contributed by Angie Larson, Clive, IA


Warm-up Question

How do you feel about failure?

Cut It Down!

shutterstock_51067822editLolo Jones hasn’t had the easiest life.  Known now as an Olympian, her roots portray a life of difficulty, failure, and struggle.  She was born the child of a single mother who moved frequently, forcing Lolo to regularly be the ‘new student’ in her ever-changing schools. Her father was in and out of her life, being in the Air Force and then later incarcerated. At one point her family lived in the church basement of Des Moines, Iowa’s Salvation Army congregation.  She attended Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.  Showing promise in track, she had dreams of being an Olympian.  When her mother was expected to move again to another town, the community at Roosevelt surrounded Lolo.  Her track coach and other mentors arranged for her to live with four different families through her senior year. They didn’t stop there.  They arranged for her to be part of the Des Moines Youth Track team, got her braces, and made sure her grades would allow her to be college bound.  She attended Louisiana State University and worked odd jobs while running track in college.

In her professional career, Lolo Jones is best known for clipping a hurdle in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in an event that she was expected to win. She came in fourth at the 2012 London Olympics in the 100 meter hurdles.  On her website, ( she writes, “I’m inspired by failure. “The process of defeat – picking yourself  back up again is the hardest thing in the world.”  After her Olympic dreams of medaling did not come through, Lolo hasn’t given up.  In October of 2012 Lolo was invited to be a part of the National Bobsled Team.  This January her Bobsled team won Gold in the combined bobsled-skeleton team at the world championships. Where will this road lead Lolo to next?


Discussion Questions

  • In the quick read over of Lolo’s life, what do you think was the turning point Lolo?
  • How has Lolo defied expectations?
  • When you fail, how do you recover?  What has been a failure that you have had to pick yourself back up from?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 3, 2013 (Third Sunday of Lent)


Isaiah 55:1-9

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Luke 13:1-9

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

In the parable of the Fig Tree Jesus challenges us to look for the fruit.  The Vineyard Owner comes out looking for three years (which could seem like a very long time) looking for expected, awaited, longed for fruit.  However there is none.  He is disappointed, dismayed, and proclaims, “Cut it down!”  He wants it to no longer even take up space in his vineyard.  He sees it as no good and a waste.  However, the gardener sees it differently.  The gardener asks the vineyard owner for one more year.  The gardener will tend to the fig tree, feed it (fertilizer), care for it, and hope that it bears fruit for the next year.

Often we are like the characters in the parable.  The Vineyard Owner:  We are frustrated with failure; it irritates us so we just want to give up.  Whether it is our failure or the failure of others, we would just as soon be rid of it so we can replace it with something else.  Perhaps something isn’t going our way, so we decide to give up and try something else. The Fig Tree:  Sometimes we take up valuable space and yet don’t produce anything. We’re waiting, we’re learning, perhaps we need to be fed.  We are called to bear fruit, but maybe we just can’t for some reason right now. The Gardener: We see hope.  We look at the tree not as a waste, but as something that just needs a little extra love and care.  We are patient, we don’t see the lack of fruit as failure but just as something that needs time and nurture.

Jesus is the Gardener.  He offers us hope even if we cannot see it ourselves.  We are not dead or scrap wood, but we are just in need of some care.  He meets us in our barrenness and tenderly feeds and cares for us.  He reminds us that we have hope and purpose in Him.  In his care and protection we want to bear fruit, for we are grateful he didn’t cut us down.

Discussion Questions

  • Today, what character in the parable do you see yourself as?  Have you seen yourself as the other characters?
  • What does it mean to you to think of Jesus as the Gardener?  Does it make you want to bear fruit?
  • How can you offer hope to others who are struggling with it?

Activity Suggestions

Plant a seed or two.  Hope for them to grow.  Talk about the promises that are in a seed and how you never know if/when/or how they will grow fruit.

Closing Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for being patient with us.  We know sometimes we need extra care and nurturing.  We thank you for saving us.  Help us to see our failures as hope for the future, to use them to help us to learn and grow. Assist us in being patient with others failures.  Thank you for being in our hearts. Amen.