Goodness

By Suzy Rumsey

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. This week (after a bit of a hiatus, sorry) is about the spiritual gift of goodness. Goodness, it seems to me is often couched in terms of obedience to one’s parents when they actually go out one evening, “Be good, Suzy. Be nice to your sister,” and not making your babysitter cry (sorry, Theresa who lived across the street in the 80s, for being tiny jerks). Goodness is… the opposite of badness. Goodness is…  doing what is right. It’s being honest. It’s doing no harm. It’s being like Jesus in thought and deed.

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James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Everything that is good is of God. There is no darkness in him. We’re called to be like Jesus, to remain good in the face of shifting shadows and a world that has a whole lot of darkness. We’re to be set apart, to be salt and light. We’re to walk with God and draw from His goodness and holiness. Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Here’s the thing: we’re human. We are, the bible tells us, born with sin (Genesis 8:21,Psalm 51:5). We are unrighteous at birth. We are, basically, without goodness. It is only in reflecting God that we are good. It is Jesus Christ dwelling within us that can make us truly good.  Sure, we can be good-ish on the outside such that others won’t notice. We can decide not to cheat on our taxes or algebra homework or whatever. But to manifest the fruit of the spirit of goodness, it must be that there is goodness on our insides, so to speak.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite worship songs as you go into your day. Let’s make it a good one as we reflect God’s goodness that dwells within us.

You are good*
You are good
When there’s nothing good in me
You are love
You are love
On display for all to see

You are light
You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope
You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace
You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true
You are true
Even in my wandering

You are joy
You are joy
You’re the reason that I sing
You are life
You are life
In you death has lost its sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more
You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord
You are Lord
All creation will proclaim

You are here
You are here
In your presence I’m made whole
You are God
You are God
Of all else I’m letting go

Hallelujah, forever
All the glory, forever
All the praise to You

My heart will sing
No other name
Jesus, Jesus

** Image licensed Creative Commons by mrhayata on www.flickr.com
* “Forever Reign” by Jason Ingram

Kindness to the Least of These

By Suzy Rumsey

Do you know the worst day of the week to wait tables? Sunday. Particularly right after church. Ask any server and they’ll tell you that they receive considerably lower tips and considerably more disrespect on Sundays. I think that sometimes we aren’t as kind as we think we are. Sure we think we’re nice to people. Sure, we’re friendly. But being nice and friendly doesn’t necessarily reflect God’s Spirit living in us. Kindness is generosity and consideration. It is drawing from God how we treat others. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Behind the front of “niceness” are we still judging others? Are we still making assumptions about them, their lifestyle, their intellect, and their abilities?  Are we holding on to prejudices? Are we glossing over sin in our lives by offering a nice front? Are we caught up in being nice and friendly on the outside when inside we’re kind of a train wreck of bitterness, anger, and judgment? Or maybe we’re just… self-satisfied, content, and unable to see a hurting world because our own world seems safe and stable.

Kindness also brings to mind the idea of hospitality to me, since the two are synonymous in my family. Hospitality to some means “entertaining” people. This is typically a phrase used by HGTV and Food Network. “I love to entertain.”  “This house layout is particularly nice for entertaining guests because it looks so open and impressive.”  “This Sous Vide Roulade of Chicken with Spinach and Bacon Marmalade, served with Warm Frisee and Endive Salad and a Carrot-Fennel Mash is fit for company!”

But what’s behind “entertaining” guests? Are we just trying to impress others? Are we performing and putting on a good front for the applause of people? Or do we have a sincere heart that wants to nourish others with both food and God’s love? Are we offering rest for the weary, comfort for those who mourn, mercy for others who are as muddled up in this life as we are? Are we relying on God to make us kind and generous and looking to him for how to be hospitable?

My challenge to myself and to each of you today is to show kindness, compassion, hospitality to the least of these. To check our hearts, and commit to God our actions.

6a0154363a7e57970c016765acd0a4970b-500wi

** Image licensed Creative Commons by Rosie O’Beime on http://www.flickr.com.

Patience.

By Suzy Rumsey

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Have you ever had someone warn you not to pray for patience because then God will give you lots of opportunities to exercise that patience? Or do you ever feel like you must have a lightening rod attached to your head for as many times as your patience is tried in a day? I certainly have. There are so very many things that try our patience in an average day. Our spouses. Our kids. Our pets. Our colleagues, coworkers, and supervisors. Repair people being late, yet again, to fix the refrigerator. Comcast “customer service” representatives. The grocery store line. Traffic and other drivers. That one friend (you know the one I mean). Waiting to find out test results. Waiting to hear about whether the loan went through. Waiting on your tomatoes to ripen. Waiting in line. Waiting on hold. Waiting…the list could go on (and on, and on, and on…).

But in the list of all the things, people, and life situations that require God’s spiritual gift of patience, I have one in mind today that I tend to leave off the list. Where I can muster up patience waiting on hold, for the line of traffic in front of me, and when Dave loses his wallet (or keys, or phone, or belt, or…) yet again, I find that the one thing I am almost never patient toward is myself. I have zero patience for my own foibles, failures, trips, and bumbles. I have zero patience for mistakes. I have very little tolerance for anything less than perfection in my work life. I have struggled my entire life to have tolerance and compassion toward my body, toward my food choices, toward my physical abilities, and toward my too-loud laugh that always happens at the wrong moment.

Patience. Tolerance. Compassion. As I develop in my walk with Jesus, the spiritual gift of patience challenges me most when it is directed internally.  To me, patience is as much about compassion as it is about not losing your temper. It has as much to do with learning to wait and trust as it does curbing your tongue.  It has as much to do with love and acceptance as it does endurance. It’s as much about forgiveness as it is about waiting.

When I think about learning how to have patience and compassion for myself, I recall the words of Paul in I Timothy 1:12 – 17.  “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The bottom line is that I am accepted and loved by God. God is patient with me, and my desire is to be like him. Just as he forgives, I should forgive. Just as he loves, I should love. Just as he shows patience toward me, I should show patience toward myself. Go into this day, friends, and have greater compassion for yourselves. Allow God’s acceptance of you to fill you entirely, until the frustration and anger and intolerance toward yourself has no room in light of his mercy, grace, and love.

** PATIENCE by Flickr user Gemma Bardsley, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License.

Peace.

By Suzy Rumsey

When I was a kid, along with noogies and the occasional “circle, circle, dot, dot, now you have your cootie shot,” we’d do this game that was supposed to feel like a broken egg on your head. You’d knock your fist (gently… most of the time) on a person’s head, then slooooowly open your hand as if to imitate the spreading egg.

For whatever reason, as weird as it is, that is the image that is stuck in my mind when I think about the spiritual fruit of peace today. In all honesty, I’m having a bit of trouble writing about peace at the moment. I should find it easy; I’m taking a day off, the house is quiet and it’s a beautiful sunny day outside. And yet, when I try to write about the spiritual fruit of peace, I’m stumbling a bit.

Basket of eggs

Still, I can imagine the feeling of that “egg” spreading out over my head, and somehow that is the closest approximation I have to the feeling of calm that pours over me when I rest in the arms of my Savior. If the egg thing is too out there for you, think of water being poured out of a pitcher over your head. Think of gradual heat spreading through your limbs when you take a hot shower after being in the cold for a long time.

When I think of peace, I find myself automatically thinking of as many synonyms as possible: Peace. Calm. Serenity. Harmony. Tranquility.  Then as I think more deeply upon it, my personality and profession as an English professor prompts me to define it. “A state of tranquility or quiet.” “Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.”*

The fruit of the spirit called peace is more than just having an environment that is without conflict. It is more than a quiet house (as wonderful as that may be) or a happy spouse or kids. Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” God gives us perfect peace. That’s pretty significant since most of the time we don’t have very peaceful lives.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). I think here when we’re talking about a spiritual fruit, we’re allowing God to grow in us a fruitful harvest of his calm, his serenity, his tranquility.  Remember, Jesus also said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 14:27). When we rest in him, we’re able to face whatever the day brings with an inner quiet, a steadiness that can only come from him.

* http://www.merriam-webster.com/

** Creative Commons Image License 2.0 www.flickr.com/photos/unitedsoybean/9624497490/

 

Joy: Blessed be the Name of the Lord

By Suzy Rumsey

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. WHERE? Down in my heart! WHERE? Down in my heart! I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to staaay! Clearly this week’s reflection is on the fruit of the spirit JOY.

You’ve probably heard that joy is not the same as happiness, but it bears repeating. Joy is not the same as happiness. Sure there are times when one is both happy and joyful, but in the daily grind of life, joy is something much deeper and more profound than happiness. Joy is more than something tickling your funny bone, a beautiful sunny day, or a cup of coffee and your favorite book. Joy is more than satisfaction.

Joy is the deep down contentment that one finds only in Jesus. Pastor Russ posted on Facebook a few weeks ago the following: “And sometimes, your prayers just start ‘why God…’ But then you remember how good God is and you say ‘thank you God.’” Something about this simple statement really stayed with me. In my mind, that inner sense of joy is heavily tied to being thankful and to knowing that above all God is GOOD. Joy is knowing and living this truth every day.

When I think of bible verses about joy, of course the Psalms come to mind. So, so many of them admonish us to be joyful, to rejoice, to be glad. Often these verses are tied to praises and hymns of praise. Philippians 4:4 tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  Over and over again, the scriptures point to praising God and rejoicing. And rejoice we do when things are going well, when there’s that lovely sunny day, when there’s enough money, when we overcome a hurdle at work, when relationships are stable, when we’re on the mountain top.

“Blessed Be Your Name*
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name…”

 “Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name”

But to me, joy is deeper and richer than that. Joy also belongs on the rough days, during the seasons of difficulty, during times when we’re emotionally flat, when we’re struggling with worry and doubt, when we’re angry, when we’re grieving.

“Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name…”

 “Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name…”

Because JOY is so much deeper than mere happiness, and because it is based in knowing and living that God is GOOD, we’re able to sing and rejoice at all times.

“Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

 “Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name”

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  May you go into this day with JOY. May you bless the name of our Lord for he is GOOD.

praising God at sunset

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*Song lyrics by Matt Redman, “Blessed be Your Name,” Album: Where Angels Fear to Tread, 2002

** Image licensed under Creative Commons License 2.0 Generic from https://commons.wikimedia.org

 

First Fruits

By Suzy Rumsey

Galatians 5: 22 – 23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Fingerprint heart

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Love. It’s the first fruit of the Spirit. We’re asked to tithe our “first fruits.” What are first fruits exactly? Well it’s the cream off the top of the pail of milk. It’s those first, lovely vine-ripe tomatoes in our basket that we’ve been waiting for since last summer (and can’t wait to eat with basil, sea salt, and olive oil). It’s the first amount of money we take out of each hard earned and very much needed paycheck. First fruit is offering our first and best to God.

So, when scripture tells us that the first fruit of the Spirit is love, what does that mean? When the Pharisees asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22: 37-39). I Corinthians 13 (A.K.A. The Loooove Chapter and a favorite of weddings) says at the end, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  Love is the most important thing. Love is our first fruit both in terms of its importance of what we should be producing and in terms of what we should be tithing back to God.

Earlier in I Corinthians 13 it says “If I speak in tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (vs. 2-3). Scripture is pretty clear here: love is first. Without it, we are nothing but the reverberations of a gong, fading into the distance. Without it, our efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of God are empty. Without it, we are nothing.

So this leaves me at a point of reflecting about love being my first fruit today. What might that look like? For me, it might be sacrificing time in the early morning hours when my brain is most alive and alert and ready for this business of thinking. It might be silencing inner voices and focusing on loving a person that, frankly, isn’t someone I particularly want to love today. For you it might be something entirely different. Be thinking about that today. What might your first fruit of love look like?

**Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 at http://www.webdesignhot.com/free-vector-graphics/fingerprint-heart-vector-graphic/

Spirit of the Living God

By Suzy Rumsey

As I continue with the series on Fruit of the Spirit, I’d like to spend this week thinking about Spirit. Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, is part of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A-aaamen. I remember as a teen, when I’d first come to know Jesus, being utterly fascinated first by Jesus himself. There were days I’d need to open my New Testament just to see the name of Jesus because I was so excited to know him.  Later, as an adult, the idea of God as my Father was more compelling somehow. That solid, stable, I AM that to me is Abba Father.

Yet here I sit today thinking about Spirit, since it’s part of this Fruit of the Spirit series, and really trying to wrap my head around who this Spirit is and what I can possible say about it. What are the characteristics of the Spirit? How can I even try to put into words, tangible, visible words, what is, in effect, a… Presence?  Well, let’s take a look at what scripture has to say, shall we?

The Spirit is clearly a part of God throughout all time, and the entirety of the Bible reflects this.  The Old Testament is filled with easily recalled examples of God being a Presence, of the Spirit being with his people (e.g. the column of fire and cloud and the burning bush in Exodus). In the New Testament, Jesus said, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8). And later, in the earliest moments of the early church, Acts 2 describes Pentecost and the ways that the Spirit was present among the believers: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (vs. 3).

Candle flame

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Clearly wind and fire are two allusions that are used to describe the Spirit. Wind and fire. Two elements that are both tangible and intangible. You can see and feel the effects of the wind, the leaves fluttering, the waves on the shore, but you can’t see the wind.  With fire you can see the flames, but you can only feel the heat. The Spirit of God seems to be a lot like that. You can feel the Spirit, but you can’t always touch it or see it. Sure there are times when God reveals himself more tangibly, even loudly like He did at Pentecost. But most of the time, to me, the Spirit is simply Presence. The whisper in my ear, the calming breath, the lifting of that worry off my shoulders, and the inner prompting that says to grow fruit, to grow and trust and allow him more fully in.

I’d like to offer a blessing on you, dear reader, if you’ll permit me. May you go into this day knowing and feeling the Holy Presence of God more closely, more quietly, and more completely than you have before. May you feel His wind, His fire. May you reflect today on the words of the hymn “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.”

**Image is Creative Commons Licensed from https://commons.wikimedia.org (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Candle#/media/File:Einzelne_Kerze.JPG)

Serenity Sunday (on a Monday)

Thrift Store Spiritual Life: Discovering That Perfect Thing

By Sarah Chesebrough

Image of word "enough"

I LOVE shopping second hand. I mean, I LOVE IT. It’s a great way to be more ‘green’ and a great way to stretch the family budget. But what really gets me is the serendipity of coming across that perfect thing. You know the one. You didn’t even know you needed it, yet you can’t fathom living without it? Yeah, that perfect thing.

Thrifting requires a certain sense of adventure, of being open to the moment, and a willingness to give up control a little so that perfect thing can find you. As we seek to know ourselves better, as we seek to know our God better, it serves us to develop a spirit of open-minded curiosity. I believe the Holy Spirit moves strongly in that space. He can help guide you, help you discover those ways in which you were created to pray, created to worship; your perfect thing.

Having grown up in the church, I am used to attending church on a Sunday morning, listening to the pastors’ message and lifting my voice with others in song or prayer at the appropriate times. I have been blessed repeatedly over the years by the meaningful messages, moving music, fellowship, and the opportunity to serve alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ.

If asked, I don’t know that I would have characterized my spiritual life as anything less than fulfilling.  Except maybe, there was something not quite connecting. Some sense of …something else out there. Some sense that I hadn’t yet found that perfect thing.

God has been working on my heart, challenging me to move beyond my comfort zone, to release control and to let go of my assumptions and expectations. He’s been working to expand my mind and my concept of worship. He’s been challenging me to get to know myself, and to learn to love myself. In this context, it has been a revelation to learn about, and try on for size, spiritual practices from a variety of traditions. It felt a bit like wandering through a new thrift store and looking for that perfect thing. You know the one-yep- the one you didn’t even know you needed.

For me, it was discovering new ways to pray, new ways to connect with God, and new ways to understand who I am as part of God’s beautiful creation. And do you know the real miracle is, what the revelation is? The more I let myself wander, the more perfect things I am able to recognize. I believe we can get to a place where we recognize that all things are perfect.

No matter how we come to God in prayer, no matter how we choose to worship Christ, the Holy Spirit is present. He is guiding us ever closer into relationship with God. However, If we are blessed enough to find those ways that speak fully to our souls, it is a perfect thing indeed. This week, I close with a challenge for us all to reflect on what the idea of having a thrift store spiritual life might mean for you.

Young Voices: Featuring Mackenzie Phillips

Written By Meggan Jackson and Mackenzie Phillips

Mackenzie

The last person to be featured in the Young Voices sermon series is Mackenzie Phillips, who spoke on Sunday August 2. If you missed it, her sermon can be found here: http://stjoemin.com/current-sermons/

The following blog is based on Mackenzie’s sermon and her powerful message of love and acceptance.

Clothing can say a lot about a person.

“Clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence on society,“ Mark Twain.

Mackenzie talked of comparing putting on clothing as God’s love and our courage that we receive from his love. Mackenzie read Colossians 3:12-14. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Mackenzie picks up on the clothe yourself part of this passage and uses this to beautifully compare God’s love to the feeling you receive from pulling a sheet straight out of the dryer and wrapping yourself in it. We should remember God loves us each individually and as an accepted person.

There are five principles we need to remember and think about each day; Compassion, Kindness, Gentleness, Humility, and Patience. We need to be mindful of these traits when we think about putting on our clothes, our “outward selves.” Instead of putting on our “invisibility cloak” a la Harry Potter, we should be putting on our cloak and stepping out and thrive! Put on your cloak at any stage of life. We shouldn’t be invisible in the world, we should be loud and proud with the knowledge that God loves us. We are his chosen children and we need to wear that proudly. Remember, “Love is supreme.”

“You are loved, you are loved, and even you are loved,” says Mackenzie.

Q: What made you decide to be part of the Young Voices sermon series?

A: What really made me decide to be a part of this series was the challenge. Yes, I had preached before but it was a chance to dive into other scriptures and find an interesting new lesson.

Q: Your sermon was on love and acceptance. How do you show love and acceptance in your daily living, so we can follow your example?

A: I often show love and acceptance by just listening to others. A lot of people have awesome personalities and things to say, someone just needs to give them the time of day. I try to surround myself and be positive to all people I meet. Life’s a lot better when you are nice to the people around you 🙂

Q: How do you hope people were affected by your sermon? And what action do you want to see?

A: I hope people realize how important it is to go about their lives with the things in the cloak I mentioned. I want people to realize that it might not always be easy but it’s worth it and it will ultimately make your relationship with others stronger like I said it took a group of 9 middle school girls to make me realize that I wasn’t being true to myself and putting on my cloak but they slowly helped me realize that it’s okay to wear it and step out of my comfort zone just to blend in with what is cool in society. Cool often = mean. And I just think there’s nothing good to come with living that type of lifestyle. But so many blessings in wearing our cloaks. So I want people to get in action and step out of that comfort zone and what’s cool and just be themselves and wear their cloaks with pride!

Q: What now? Will we be seeing more of you preaching at St. Joseph?

A: With school coming back into session I hope I can change my attitude from last year. I lost a lot of friends trying to fit in and throwing my cloak to the side. I hope this year I can step out and wear my cloak more like I did at the end of the school year and meet new people who will accept that side of me. I sure hope I can preach in the future as long as Russ and Nathan let me. I love being able to share my knowledge and Earhart I’m most passionate about with others. So don’t count me out I’ll be back soon 🙂

Fruit and the Process of Becoming

By Suzy Rumsey

I’ve given a lot of thought to how I might offer consistent content on this blog. Then it occurred to me that at church we typically hear messages that are part of a sermon series. Ah, the series. The ability to plan (you all know by now my predilection for planning) and have things done ahead of time, to know where you’re headed. So the first of many series(es?) (seriously, what’s the plural for series? You’d think I would know that) that I’ll be pursuing is one focused on the Fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps my post about oranges last week got me thinking about fruit. Or maybe I’m just hungry for pie. Either way, Fruit of the Spirit seems a … fruitful (sorry) way to begin my time coordinating this blog.

Apples on branches

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Galatians 5: 22 – 23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

At first I thought, “Oh cool, there are nine fruit, I’ll have nine posts. Easy peasy.” Then I sit down to begin this series and all I’m seeing is the phrase “the fruit of the Spirit” and I realize that in order to really examine love, joy, peace and so on, we need to spend a bit of time thinking about fruit and Spirit.

Fruit is a product. It is produced by a flowering plant as part of the process of bearing seeds, the process of reproducing, creating offspring. Now, I’m not a parent, so I can’t really take this reflection down that road. But I do understand offspring, propagation, and progeny. And I understand, certainly, what Jesus is talking about when he talks in each of the gospels about seed falling on good soil being “the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

Seems to me that bearing fruit is more than just having lovely apples or grapes hanging from your branches. Bearing fruit is the action of passing forward something. Offspring, to “spring off”, to share, to advance your lineage. It is a sign of growth. It isn’t stagnant and something to sit back and admire. “My, what lovely tangerines you have.” No, instead it’s about moving forward, growing, changing and becoming what we are.

Bearing fruit, then, is becoming what we are: children of God who are planted in him. We’re his offspring. We’re commissioned to go forth and make disciples, and by growing fruit, we’re going to grow His kingdom in ourselves and in those around us.

**Image is Creative Commons Licensed from https://commons.wikimedia.org