Gal 5: 13 – 26 and Matthew 7; 15 – 29
With Brendan away for 5 Sundays I wanted with the later service to have a theme and choose “Fruits of the Spirit” which is why you had different readings to those set out in Koinonia today! So for those that normally come to 8.00am if todays sermon wets your appetite then you will have to come later next week!!!!
First of all I want to differentiate between fruits and gifts of the spirit. 1 Cor 12 outlines the Gifts as those things which are given to God’s people for the strengthening and building of His Kingdom – and given for the common good – wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation and freely given as God determines.
On the other hand the Fruits as we heard them read this morning are something that we learn and develope as we grow in Christ. When Lynne and I were at the church in Gisborne we had a beautiful elderly lady called Issie Brooks who had been in the choir for years and at evensong the choir members took it in turns to read the lessons. Issie was single – she would have called herself a spinster and very devout but always seemed to be the reader who got the more salacious passages. One Sunday she had to read this mornings epistle all about the acts of the sinful nature – sexual immorality, debauchery, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft etc- after the service she wanted to know why she always had to read these terrible readings because she didn’t understand what half the things were she was reading about!!
Anyway the first half of our Galatians reading was a warning – “if you live by the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”. Paul, when he wrote this epistle, fully understood the weakness of people to fall from grace through human failing. He was telling his readers and us that only by cleaving to the principles of a God filled life would we have the strength to fight evil – furthermore if we stood against evil then our lives would bear fruit – the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Closing them off by saying –“against such things there is no law” .
Our Gospel reading was also about fruits of the spirit and also with a caution – “By their fruits you will know them’”.
This Gospel passage is all about teaching – whether from the pulpit or from simple conversation as we share our faith with others. We need to make sure that what we share is truth – Although most of our 10 commandments begin “Thou shalt not’ our religion is not a negative one. The Jewish faith was built on laws which, if followed implicitly bought salvation. But the whole essence of our Christian faith does not consist of NOT doing things but quite the opposite – we must be doing things positively.
We must never gloss over our faith making it seem like an easy out to salvation. We are taught to live by Jesus’ example and that wasn’t easy. We need to understand that if we say “Lord God I love you” then sometimes in our faith journey there will be pain and hurt – any teaching that takes the iron out of our religion, which removes the Cross from our thinking is false teaching.
Our faith does not teach us to become insular and separate from community life because Jesus sent us into the world to teach and preach His message.
“By their fruits you will know them” – in 1981 I went to an Anglican conference in Lower Hutt – “Anglicans in Aotearoa” 1100 committed Anglicans in one auditorium – the place was humming!!
One of the keynote speakers was a South American evangelist who spoke with passion for about 45 minutes on his work in S America. We then split into small groups to discuss what had been said. Everyone in our little group thought the speaker was fabulous. One member of our group was a chubby Franciscan monk and after we’d all had a say he jumped to his feet and shouted at us “didn’t you look at that man as he spoke about poverty? He was dressed in a hand sewn linen suit that cost $1000, he had a hand painted silk tie worth another $100, he had hand tooled genuine leather shoes and carried a sharkskin briefcase! Oh yes he spoke very eloquently, but how can you believe he knew anything about poverty?
He went on ‘I live by the vows of poverty, chastity & obedience, I wear a simple brown robe and sandals and eat 3 meals a day and I don’t really know poverty or hardship.”
“By their fruits you shall know them”
What did our Gospel say – “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but only those who do the will of my Father.”
We find the fruits of the spirit when we accept God into our hearts, when we share the teachings of Jesus Christ and when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then those blossoms turn to fruit and the first of those is love. A word that in this day and age seems to have lost any meaning of reality, a word that is used with little understanding.
The Greeks split the word up into 4 so it covered the different areas.
“Eros” the word describing the love of man for woman, the sexual connotation if you like. That word eros is never used in the New Testament!
Then they used “philia” – the warm love we feel for family – brotherly love would be a good way of describing it.
Thirdly “Storge” which meant simply the affection that we may feel when we think of our children – it is warm and comforting.
Lastly they used “Agape” which was an all encompassing love. A love that was willing to accept insult or injury from someone yet never looking for anything but good. A feeling of mind as well as heart. It describes a deliberate effort on our part – which we can only do with the help of God – always to seek the best outcome even for those who may have hurt or offended us. It is the purest form of the word Love.
Paul knew human frailty and the weakness of our minds and wills and knew that the fruits of the spirit could only be ripened and harvested by using the gifts God gave us. I hear many Christian people say “But I don’t have any God given gifts” and my answer to that is then you haven’t really looked closely at yourself, your life and the blessings you have received. All God’s children have received a gift – some more obvious than others which doesn’t make then any more precious or special than what appears a lesser gift.
Think about your God given gifts and know that you have each born fruit as you go about your daily lives sharing those fruits with all those you love and come into contact with. “By your fruits they will know YOU…”.
Want to close with a blessing for courage.
When the light around you lessens and your thoughts darken until your body, feels fear turn cold as a stone inside.
When you find yourself bereft of any belief in yourself and all you unknowingly leaned on has fallen,
When one voice commands your whole heart and it is raven dark.
Steady yourself and see that it is your own thinking that darkens your world,
Search and you will find a diamond thought of light,
Know that you are not alone and that this darkness has purpose;
Gradualy it will school your eyes to find the one gift your life requires hidden within this night corner.
Invoke the learning of every suffering you have suffered.
Close your eyes, gather all the kindling about your heart to create one spark.
That is all you need to nourish the flame that will cleanse the dark of its weight of festered fear.
A new confidence will come alive to urge you towards higher ground where your imagination will learn to engage difficulty, as its most rewarding threshold.