Advent Devotions: Growing figs in Baltimore

Advent 2015. Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

Editor’s note: This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).       

By Adlai Amor    

Luke 21:29-30             

When my friend Paul decided to retire early, he bought a row-house in the TV Hill area of Baltimore. It is a sturdy house in a slowly diversifying neighborhood. One of the reasons he bought it was because of its backyard.

Albeit stamp-sized, it was a yard — one that he did not have living in a condo. He loved the challenge of restoring the poor soil and planting a garden. Paul cared for it and spent hundreds of dollars to restore the soil. His English garden thrived and was a welcome sight amid the encroaching blight in the neighborhood.

Earlier he had bought a mission fig tree, envisioning that he would be able to soon harvest its fruits. He hoped to serve home-grown figs during his dinners. When the fig tree was mature enough, it indeed yielded some fruit. One day he found unripe figs on the ground. The next year, the same thing happened. One day, while reading in his garden, he saw why the figs never ripened: the neighborhood rats loved to scamper up the tree, biting off the figs.

Rereading Jesus’ parable, it occurred to me that there is an additional message in the story. It is not just seeing the signs. While Paul’s mission fig does indeed mark summer, the fruits will never ripen and be ready for harvest if he does not care for them and see them through the harvest.

Paul’s fig tree is like God’s word. We may see the signs and even understand what they mean. But just as importantly, we must guard it and nurture it. No matter how successful we think we will be, there will always be rats in this world that will ruin the harvest.

Adlai Amor is the vice chair of the board of trustees at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He is also the director of communications and marketing at Bread for the World.


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