Psalm 16 & Galatians 5:16-26
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
October 23, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about help.
After I selected this reading today from Paul’s letter to the Galatians I could not get a song I learned as a child in church camp out of my head. It goes…the fruit of the spirit is not bananas, bananas, the fruit of the spirit is not bananas, if you want to be a banana then you might as well hear it, you can’t be a fruit of the spirit because the fruit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. And then it continues with other fruit.
It is a silly song and really teaches you nothing about the fruit of the Spirit or what Paul is trying to convey. In the two paragraphs for today we have Paul setting up the flesh as opposed to the Spirit. I remember as a teenager believing the flesh to mean the list that Paul puts forth, fornication, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, anger, drunkenness all sexual thought or action. It was as if there truly were two opposing figures sitting on my shoulders. The bad one dressed in red like the devil and the white one in pure white like an angel.
Is that what Paul is talking about here? Are we at war with our physical selves and our Holy selves?
I don’t believe so. The flesh represents the worldly tug and pulls, the physical of our reality here on earth. The list that Paul even puts together are “behaviors that any fellow Jew or God-fearer would enthusiastically condemn.” The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, our guide.
What is all this talk about fruit? Why is Paul talking in a fruit metaphor? I must admit, it took me a while to figure out that the fruit of the spirit was really a way of saying what the spirit produces, i.e. the fruits of our labors, or the fruit of one’s loins, to bear fruit etc. Fruit as the product or consequence of human effort would have also been familiar in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish literature.
So the Spirit produces, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice Paul uses the singular noun fruit, not fruits but goes on to list nine items. M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock write that while the “flesh” results in a plurality of works, … God’s Holy Spirit … generates a singular fruit. Love is not one “virtue” or “ideal” among others, but the care for others expressed in concrete acts of unselfishness, the mainspring of all the other activities …
The fruit of the Spirit comes out of love. It goes back to one of my favorite verses in the New Testament, 1 John 4:8 “God is love”. It is from God that we receive the Holy Spirit, the breath of God and that fruit is love.
Where have we seen this fruit of the Spirit? One place I can tell you we have not has been the presidential debates. Yet I must say, congratulations my friends. As of Wednesday night you made it through all the presidential debates. In our house we even managed not to throw anything at the television, I hope the same is true for you. As we watched or heard about the debates there was no shortage of many of the “vices” on the list Paul gave us as works for the flesh: strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy.
While this year may seem more intense than years past, it is also true that each of us suffer from some of the same spiritual temptations that our politicians do. If we take a look again at Paul’s list, two-thirds are the items listed are matters of the mind and heart, such as anger and envy. Paul even notes that it is “things like these”.
It is easy to see where actions are not being produced by the Spirit. I can even feel it in when my thoughts and actions are in that vein. When I become jealous or angry my body tenses. I even collapse in on myself. It is self-indulgent, self-loving, and selfish. I am all about myself and closed off from other people and the Spirit.
Yet when I am breathing in the Spirit, when I am allowing the Spirit to produce the works of my life there is a whole different feel. It is like taking in a big inhale. My chest expands, my vertebrae lengthen, and a light fills my soul. There is a physical and mental difference.
This is important to notice in yourself. How do you know when you are producing actions that are not from the Spirit? That are not love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
So where have you seen works of the Spirit, it is where you see actions done through love. Not through competition with one another or envying but out of love. What would our elections look like if those running for office were truly doing so out of the love for others?
What would our lives look like if every action we took was out of love, was a product of the fruit of the Spirit? How awesome would that be? The battles between the flesh, between our worldly desires would lose out to the Spirit every time.
We would not worship money, the future gains or our image but instead would sing the 16th Psalm, “Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you…I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
Yet unfortunately we are human and will continue to at times be in conflict. The key is to allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit. One way to do this is by following The Four Agreements, as written by Miguel Ruiz. The first is to be impeccable with your word. “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”
2) Don’t take anything personally. “Whatever happens around you, don't take it personally... Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
3) Don’t make assumptions. I am constantly relearning this one. Working with people who are experiencing homelessness I am apt to quickly make assumptions which are usually wrong. As Ruiz says “If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don't tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don't understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions.”
4) Always do your best. And I would add out of Love. Ruiz says: “God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, "I love you, God," is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, "Thank you, God," is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now. Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.”
These four agreements align with the fruit of Spirit. If we can be impeccable with our word, not take anything personally, not make assumptions and always do our best then we will be in line with the Spirit and see how it produces, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. After all the fruit of the Spirit is not bananas.
May the Spirit move in you to bear the fruit you need.
 Abington Galatians Commentary, Page 150