Friday June 18, 2010
Friday June 18, 2010
by Rev. Shelley Hamilton
Associate Pastor for Congregational Care
… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22, 23
I am an outside person. I like wind, rain, the smells of summer and spring. I also like sunshine and even a sometimes-blistering heat. I cannot imagine life without full moons, stars, and the amazing, ever-changing fragrances of changing seasons. I like the stillness of nature – even in the midst of a storm there is a foundational stillness that helps me remember God is God. Indeed, it is in the midst of creation that I come closest to being face-to-face with the Spirit of God – the Creator. I guess you could say – when I am outdoors – walking the labyrinth, sitting on a bench next to the sculpture of St. Francis, or walking through the bayou at my brother’s house I am always acutely aware of the “fruits” of God’s spirit.
Paul tells us throughout his writings in many different ways that we are to “walk by the spirit.” I have been asked many times: what does it mean exactly to walk by the spirit? I think the answer might rest within our scripture passage for this morning and can be seen in how we live revealing the fruit of God’s Spirit. Paul uses an ordinary apple as a metaphor. Obviously, when an apple tree is nourished and properly cared for, plenty of water and fertile ground, it will produce delicious and beautiful fruit. In the same way, when those of us who call ourselves Christian, live in Christ, guided and empowered by the Spirit, we too will yield good fruit. That is, we will first and foremost love; love without judgment and conditions, as God loves us. What follows is joy and peace and it becomes simple and gratifying to demonstrate kindness, goodness, faithfulness and all the other results of walking by the spirit of God.
Paul lists a variety of manifestations of God’s spirit in our verses. Still, there is wholeness to them. The “fruits” of the Spirit are whole; not singular thus, none of them is optional. The Greek word karpos or “fruit” in Galatians 5:22 is singular. John Calvin once said, “only those who bear all of the fruit, to one degree or another, actually live and abide in Christ.” Paul identifies this unity when he places love as the first of the fruits of the spirit. Did you know that love is the only quality that appears in all other New Testament listings of spiritual gifts or traits? Most preachers, teachers, historians, and biblical scholars agree: love is foundational for all other fruits of the spirit. Indeed, all the other fruits are different manifestations of love. Love, I believe, as did Paul, is the very character of God – it is who S/he is. Think about it – God loves us when we are obedient and when we are not; when we repent and when we do not. God expects us to love everyone, even those who are most difficult and ungrateful. Intimidating, is it not? I challenge us to strive today and through the weekend to show God’s love to someone, we have labeled “unlovable.”Help us today, loving God, to walk by the spirit abiding in Christ. Amen!
Holy God, receive the prayers of our hearts and the Spirit’s deep sighs for creation. Amen.