25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.Teacher, he said, what must I do to inherit eternal life?26He said to him,What is written in the law? What do you read there?27He answered,You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.28And he said to him,You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus,And who is my neighbor?
30Jesus replied,A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend. 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?37He said,The one who showed him mercy.Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.
5For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
All week long at Art and Music camp, we talked about the fruit of the spirit. And this morning for those of you who weren't there we wanted to give you just a little taste of what it was like… So all of the songs for the worship service today were songs we sang at camp and we put together one of the skits that we did at camp… and you may have noticed the art that's displayed as you walked in the front doors of the church and the balloons and the window decals and the words that are put up around the sanctuary. All of those things were part of the daily happenings around here as we learned what the fruit of the spirit is and also learned about how the fruit might be seen and be shared in our own lives. And for me, it was amazing to think about the fruit of the spirit as I went about the week…
You see, in the bible passage where the fruit of the spirit comes
from, Paul, the guy who wrote it, starts off talking about
freedom… He says that Jesus Christ set us free and we can do
what we want to do with that freedom, but as we consider what we
actually want to do, we do have a source of guidance. He gives us two
different roads to choose from… on the one hand we can choose
to live for ourselves and for our own benefit. On the other hand we
can choose to live for God and for the benefit of others. He takes
all of the teachings of the bible about what we should do and what we
shouldn't do and sums it up into one sentence…
neighbor as yourself. He lists out a lot of unhelpful and
unhealthy behaviors that might come up if you choose to do whatever
you feel like doing without thinking about others… and then he
gives another list of behaviors that he calls the fruit of the
spirit… and now you know about this fruit: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and
self-control. These are things that are helpful and healthy. He
points out that there's no law that would stand in the way and
wouldn't it be nice if we could always live these practices?
And for the week of Art and Music camp, we tried. We tried to live them and we tried to teach them and we tried to show them and there were lots of ways we succeeded and few times that we saw how hard it is to be fruitful. The day we focused on kindness was the same day that I became convinced because of a few things I saw that every single set of siblings struggles with the idea of kindness sometimes. The day we talked about Patience, I learned that patience may be a virtue that isn't any easier for me than it is for a three year old. Every day it seemed like there were only a few moments between 9 o'clock and noon that had any semblance of peace… and even though we only had one real injury there were plenty of times when I wondered if the lesson on gentleness and self-control sank in… But even during those times when the fruit of the spirit weren't all present, it was still clear to me that throughout the Art and Music camp we were definitely on the right track because joy and love were in abundance…
I can't count how many times parents who were dropping off their kids expressed their thanks for the activity and the friendship and the fun that we as the United Parish played a part in providing for the community. I can't count how many hugs and high fives and beaming smiles I received… and I was only one of the twenty or so volunteers who spent the week with these kids… And I can only hope to convey to those of you who weren't there what a wonderful thing it was to have the kind of laughter and energy and joyfulness that comes from 40 kiddos running around and singing and dancing and playing together; and it was only when I stopped to think about the whole camp experience on Friday afternoon that I realized just maybe, the kiddos were the ones who were here to teach us about the fruit of the spirit at least as much as we were here to teach them. You see the Spirit of Christ is at work in all of us. What Jesus did in his teaching and what he did with his life was done for everyone. And because of that, the fruit of the spirit isn't something we create as if we're an artist doing an art project… We are the art project; each of us is part of it and the fruit of the spirit is what happens in us as God creates us and forms us into the image of Christ… And this week we definitely saw the image of Christ as we played and prayed and worked and talked together… but a picture is worth a thousand words so we put together a slide show in hopes that you might be able to see that image of Christ as we did in the faces of the campers… lets take a look.
We can all strive after the fruit of the spirit but when you want fruit, you don't plant fruit… you plant seeds… and as it turns out, the seeds that are able to be planted: the seeds that we trust will grow and eventually turn into the fruit of the spirit are actually the evidence of the spirit working in us because the spirits work is contagious. Isn't it often the case that when we set out to serve others, we find that we are also transformed in the process? Isn't it often the case that when we seek to show somebody who God is, God also reveals God's self to us? As we show joy, it becomes possible for others to know what joy looks like and as we see joy it becomes possible to show it. As we live peace it becomes possible for others to envision peace in their own life. As we extend the love of Christ it becomes possible to believe that Christ does indeed love each of us…
This week was a great week at camp, and perhaps the best part was being around so many people who were committed to loving and serving one another reminded me that the fruit of the spirit isn't just about what we do… it's about who we are as God's people… and if you look around at the words on the walls this morning and think it sure would be nice if I got to experience some of these things… what I'd say is go out and find a place to invest, somewhere that you can make a difference by sharing yourself and your faith in the goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because the spirit is our guide and as Paul says the whole law is summed up by loving your neighbor as yourself and as we go about our days, if we go forth guided by the spirit, God will certainly manifest the fruit. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The foregoing sermon was given by Rev. Dan Holland at the United Parish of Bowie on July 31, 2011.
© 2011 Daniel Holland