The Dead Sea is 48 miles long and between 3 and 11 miles wide. Noting lives in it. No plants and no fish. Technically, the Dead Sea is dead because the salt content of the body of water is almost six times that of the world's oceans. But how did it get that deadly? Has the Dead Sea always been a dead sea? Experts believe that long, long ago the Dead Sea was much bigger and much less salty, but even then it began suffering from a fatal flaw: while the Jordan River and some small canals feed into it, there is no outlet for the rainwater, carrying minerals from the surrounding mountains, to escape. The result: a slow, shrinking death as the only escape for the stagnant water is through evaporation.
Yes, the Dead Sea is great if you're merely afraid of drowning, but today it cannot sustain any form of life in its waters -- and so it is with any congregation that calls itself "Christian."
A few Sundays ago we hear of God continually coming to his chosen people, looking for the God-enabled fruit of repentance. To the tree's judgment, God didn't find any. Like the Dead Sea, the tree was found without any outlet to share the nutrients given it from the ground and in the air. It was an unfuitful tree beacuse it was a stingy tree. It drank in water and food from its roots and sunlight from its leaves, but kept all these blessed things to itself. No fruit. No sharing. No fruit of repentance and thanksgiving.
Christ has come to dig around our roots and aereate the ground, to fertilize the ground and water us with his Word. He comes to shine the bright beams of his mercy on our leaves and sprinkle us with the forgiveness of sins. He nurtures us and, sometimes, even prunes us that we might produce even more fruit.
Our Gracious Savior has poured out his lifeblood and given his all for us, even the gift of faith that believes and receives with joy and thanksgiving his unbelieveable, unreasonable, unimagined gifts.
And miracle of miracles, our Lord gives us the ability to reach out and share these treasures with others. He comes with the promise of breaking down the walls that make us a dead sea with no outlet to allow the waters of God's mercy to spill over into the lives of others.
I've served in congregations where God's chosen people have not allowed the Word of Christ to dwell in them richly and spill over into their families and neighbors and community. Congregations can give into the temptation of receiving the bounty of God's good and gracious gifts and then turning around and becoming stingy with sharing salvation with those who are in spiritually lifeless situations.
The pastors and the congregational leadership are committed to helping us as a church family stay grounded in the good soil of God's Word, drink in the life-giving food of eternal life, forgiveness of sins and salvation. Why? So that each of us, as God himself gives opportunity, can make a difference in this community and beyond by sharing the Gospel as freely as it has been shared with us.
Pray that, in the light of Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter morning, we may, by God's all-sustaining grace, not become a Dead Sea, but move forward with courage to individually and corporately allow Christ to bubble up and spill over into the lives of others.
God promises that in Christ through his Spirit he will work in us faith and the fruits of faith through his Holy Word, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Don't hold back the work Christ desires to do through you become the stagnant pond. Place yourself where you will be blessed to be a blessing. See you at servies and study!