Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness & Goodness (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - Kindness-Goodness

I continued last Sunday with our discussion about the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). On this Sunday I focused on kindness and generosity (sometimes listed as goodness rather than generosity – however it’s hard to be good, and not be generous.)

The practice of Kindness or Generosity is counter cultural to the world around us. I want to look at Generosity for a moment as a practice or way of life. In The Paradox of Generosity (Oxford University Press, 2014), sociologists Christian Smith and Hillary Davidson provide compelling social-scientific evidence suggesting that generosity leads to a happier, healthier, more purposeful life, confirming Jesus’ teaching that “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39).

In their study, Smith and Davidson, present social-scientific evidence to support the following nine specific effects of a pattern of generosity on our lives.

1. Generosity fosters positive emotions that promote happiness and health.
2. Generosity triggers the chemical systems in our brains that reduce stress and suppress pain.
3. Generosity promotes our sense of personal agency and self-efficacy.
4. Generosity provides us with positive, meaningful social roles and self-identities.
5. Generosity reduces our tendency toward maladaptive self-absorption.
6. Generosity reinforces our perception of abundance and blessing.
7. Generosity expands our social networks and relational ties.
8. Generosity expands our intellectual and emotional horizons by exposing us to the needs of others.
9. Generosity is associated with a more active lifestyle.

The authors are very specific to say that these positive outcomes result from ongoing practices of generosity. While specific acts, such as leaving money in our wills or signing an organ donor card, are generous acts, to achieve the effects listed above it requires a pattern of regular generosity.

Think about our current culture of consumerism, where purchase and consumption are emphasized as a routine part of our daily living. We are bombarded with opportunity after opportunity to consume. The folks on Madison Avenue know when we are at our weakest. Why do you think there are all those candy bars available to you at the end of a long night of grocery shopping?

Generosity helps us to push back against all that consumer pressure, and according to Smith and Davidson, we gain a greater sense of wellbeing through generosity. You are invited to find your own practice of generosity, and to enjoy the work of building God’s Kingdom.

I hope to see you Sunday as we continue to explore the fruits of the ministry.

Grace and peace…
Quentin



Fruit of the Spirit – Patience (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - Patience

When I was a senior in high school, I remember being interviewed by a committee for a college scholarship. One of the men on the panel asked me what qualities I would someday look for in a future spouse. I replied with the first thing that popped into my mind. I said, ‘patience.’ The committee chuckled, but after being married for 25 years, I still stand by that answer. Patience is a great quality for the person you’re going to spend your days with to have – especially if you aren’t perfect or if you are a bit short on patience yourself!

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Patience is an interesting thing, isn’t it? How often have you said that you’ve lost your patience? Or that you are about to lose it? Like, where does it go? Can we search for it like a lost wallet? Is our patience just hiding somewhere out of sight, and all we have to do is find it? As adults we often think we need to teach our children patience, to teach them to delay gratification, to learn to wait their turn, to wait patiently in line — all of those things that we’re not very good at ourselves. In Matthew 19:14, Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these.”

I read an article not too long ago by Rachel Stafford called “The Day I stopped saying Hurry Up.” She writes: “Six years ago I was blessed with a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the roses type of child. When I needed to be out the door, she was taking her sweet time picking out a purse and a glittery crown. When I needed to be somewhere five minutes ago, she insisted on buckling her stuffed animal into a car seat. When I needed to grab a quick lunch at Subway, she’d stop to speak to the elderly woman who looked like her grandma. When I had a full agenda that started at 6 a.m., she asked to crack the eggs and stir them ever so gently. My carefree child was a gift to my task-driven nature-but I didn’t see it. Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, “We don’t have time for this.” Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: “Hurry up.” Hurry up, we’re gonna be late. Hurry up and eat your breakfast. Hurry up and get dressed. Hurry up and brush your teeth. Hurry up and get in bed. Then one fateful day, things changed. We’d just picked my older daughter up from kindergarten and were getting out of the car. Not going fast enough for her liking, my older daughter said to her little sister, “You are so slow.” And when she crossed her arms and let out an exasperated sigh, I saw myself-and it was a gut-wrenching sight. I was a bully who pushed and pressured and hurried a small child who simply wanted to enjoy life.”

How often do we say hurry up in any given day? To others? Or maybe to ourselves? I know I say it, particularly to myself, in a multitude of ways every day, even to inanimate objects like the traffic light or the internet. I hate it when I feel like I am living my day racing the clock!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, ‘Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.’

What if, we could believe with all our hearts that God is not in a hurry? What if we could believe with all our hearts that God wants us to take our time and linger with one another, and in God’s presence, learning to wait not only on God, but with God? What if we could exemplify this attribute of God, both with others and with ourselves? Patience is, by God’s grace, refusing to live our days hurried and harried. It is living with steadfastness, perseverance and great hope, trusting that God will never fail or forsake us.

We read the verse from the book of Jonah where Jonah gets really angry with God for being slow to anger and abounding in love and mercy. He was angry that God was patient with the Ninevites. At the end of the story, God invites Jonah to see the situation with bigger eyes, from the perspective of God who loves all of God’s children.

However, we’re never really told how it works out for Jonah and his spirit.

As we walk through the days of this coming week, we are invited to ask ourselves, “How is it working out for us?” Are we able to step back and see life through God’s eyes? Are we able to hurry a little less and smell a few more roses?

I think it may start by abiding in Christ – by abiding close to the one who reveals God’s attribute of being slow – slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; close to the one who tells us again and again: “It’s okay.” “You don’t have to rush.” “Take your time.” “Don’t give up.” “I am with you, even till the end of the age.”

Blessings and grace,
Karen



Fruit of the Spirit – Peace (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - Peace

Standing in the house of Burgess in Williamsburg, on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry proclaimed:

Peace, Peace- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Now let me contrast that with God’s directive to Moses to bless the Israelites:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-25)

Some of you may recognize that from your Methodist Youth days. How many times, in how many places, have youth from Methodist and United Methodist Churches stood in a circle, arms crossed, right over left, and said the words of God to Moses, then adding at the end: “Shalom!”?

And it is in this last word “Shalom” that we hear the difference between the words of Patrick Henry, and the word of God spoken to Moses. In Biblical terms the opposite of “Peace”, is not violence or war. It is anxiety. It is the anxiety of humanity that leads to war, and violence. “Shalom” means in the Hebrew, “To live in a state of wellbeing.” Eve and Adam lived in the garden in a state of perpetual “Shalom.” Their anxieties gave way to sin.

The fruit of living with God is to be in a state of wellbeing. It is what is called “peace.” We may live without conflict, and not still not be at peace. Peace requires faithful living with who God is, and who we are in God.

The church is, as it always has, moving through difficult issues, but so are we as families, and as individuals. You and I, as people of faith, are called to embrace the peace of God. You and I are invited to rest in God’s grace and trust in God’s promises. I invite you to continue to join us in the coming weeks as we find the peace of God that comes from resting in God’s grace.

Grace and PEACE…

Quentin



Fruit of the Spirit – Joy (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - JoyGretchen Rubin is the author of several books including the Happiness Project which spent more than two years on the New York Times Best seller list. In an article for The Daily Good, she reflects about her journey toward trying to embrace enthusiasm (which I would say is close to what we will talk about as joy). She writes:

“I wanted to laugh more, I wanted to show more loving-kindness, and I also wanted to be more enthusiastic. I knew that it wasn’t nice to criticize but it was fun. Why was it so deliciously satisfying to criticize? Being critical made me feel more sophisticated and intelligent – and in fact, studies show that people who are critical are often perceived to be more discerning. In one study, for example, people judged the writers of negative book reviews as more expert and competent than the writers of positive reviews, even when the content of both reviews was deemed to be of high quality. Another study showed that people tend to think that someone who criticizes them is smarter than they are. Being critical has its advantages, and what’s more, it’s much easier to be hard to please.”

What do you think? Is that true? While it might be easier to be hard to please, I certainly resonate with her next observation: “It’s hard to find pleasure in the company of someone who finds nothing pleasing.” I’m afraid I have days I’m not very good company, so it’s probably good we spent last Sunday focusing on a more enthusiastic fruit of the spirit: Joy! Rubin says: “Although enthusiasm seems easy and undiscriminating, in fact, it’s much harder to embrace something than to disdain it. It’s riskier.” Who would have thought that being enthusiastic or joyful is risky??

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:4, 5a, 8, 11)

Jesus invites us to abide in his love so that his joy might be in us – so that the fruit of the spirit, JOY, might be produced in our lives.

There is a lot of literature out there about the difference between joy and happiness, and what is worth pursuing and how to go about it. Some would say that happiness is an emotion we experience when good things happen, and it seems more dependent on external circumstances matching our desires. Some would also define joy as an emotion, but one that is more dependent on what occurs inside of us – when we develop an appreciation or thankfulness for the little things in life as well and when we have faith in something larger than ourselves and our circumstances.

Being happy isn’t a bad thing. It just occurs more naturally as a result of good circumstances taking place. But since we can’t rely on having good circumstances all the time, joy might be an emotion worth cultivating like all fruit – something we can develop by abiding in Christ.

The verses of Psalm 137 always get to me…. The words feel so raw and real, I can imagine myself sitting right there. The psalmist writes:

By the rivers of Babylon-
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, (which means happiness and laughter) saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

The Israelites, feeling completely stripped of their land and lives, replied, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in these surroundings and circumstances”?

We have probably all had events in our lives where we have found ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings; when our ‘familiar land’ and all that made life happy and whole are suddenly far away. The death of a spouse or child, a recent divorce, a progressive disability, the loss of a job, a new job, a sudden illness, a move — all events that can alter our circumstances and lifestyles. We, too, might ask: “How can I sing in this strange land?”

I found myself thinking of that Psalm when I was at the movie theater this week. Did you know that Pixar released a movie to coincide perfectly with our fruit of the spirit series?? It was released last weekend, and it’s called Inside Out and has been referred to as a kid’s movie that’s actually for adults. It explains the inner workings of the brain and explores the cognitive and scientific connections between emotions and memory in an amazing way! In the movie, 11 year old Riley has had a great childhood growing up in Minnesota with her parents and her best friend and all her favorite activities. Then her father is forced to uproot the family and move them to San Francisco.

While she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, most of the movie happens inside Riley’s head – where little characters control her emotions as she navigates her new circumstances, trying to make sense of how to find joy in this strange new place without the familiar surroundings that previously brought her so much happiness.

The main characters are the following emotions: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Joy.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was the little boy I didn’t know sitting next to me. At one point in the movie, anger is wanting to take over Riley’s emotions, and the little boy tries to help Riley out. He was whispering in a loud voice, “No, no, don’t listen to him!”

Joy, one of the emotions in Riley’s head, works really hard wanting Riley to have only happy memories. In one scene we looked at, she draws a circle on the floor and tells ‘Sadness’ that her job is to stay inside the circle!

Wouldn’t that be great? If we could just draw a circle and ask everything unpleasant or sad to just stay in it? I know some of the heartaches some of us face (children and adults alike), and I sure wish I could do that for all of us.

By the rivers of Babylon-
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?

In Philippians 4:4, Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Rejoice in the Lord always….But how?

Perhaps a closer look at the word ‘joy’ in its original language from scripture might shed some light. In Luke 22:19, it says: Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the original word for ‘he gave thanks’ is ‘eucharisteo’. In fact, communion in some traditions is referred to as The Eucharist. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace”, and its derivative is chara, meaning “joy.” Chara. Joy. Charis. Grace. EuCHARisteo. Thanksgiving.

In many ways remembering and giving thanks is at the very center of our faith, and Holy Communion invites us to place the whole of our lives into the context of grace and joy and thanksgiving. The table draws a circle big enough to include and transform every memory, every experience and every circumstance of our lives.

Remembering and giving thanks, whether at the table of Holy Communion, or at our meal at home, or when we look out the window at the sunshine, or pause to see the blessings in the faces with whom we share life, or whenever we remember that life itself is a gift…. however we do it, remembering and giving thanks is what connects us to the vine and helps us abide in Christ’s love so that his joy might be in us! Remembering and giving thanks is what helps us to sing the Lord’s song, even in a strange land.

Why is it we talk about ‘joy’ mostly at Christmas time?? Joy to the world, we sing! The Lord is come!

Maybe we talk about joy so much at Christmas time because we are focused on the birth of Jesus Christ as an amazing gift. The gift of God – who came to be with us – in every circumstance and in every foreign and strange land – a gift that was pure grace! A gift that was obviously so undeserved, we can’t help but receive it with great joy, with great thanks giving (Eucharisteo)!

Maybe that’s what happens when we lose our joy in life – we start to think that we deserve what we have, or we forget the grace and joy of being alive, no matter our circumstances.
In Psalm 30, the psalmists writes:
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

While Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, observes that it’s much easier to be hard to please rather than joyful and enthusiastic, perhaps, in the coming days, we can seek to abide in Christ so others will find pleasure in our company because we find so many things to be pleasing.

We are, after all, God’s people – branches of the vine sent to spread joy to the world!
I hope to see you in worship this Sunday (at our ONE WORSHIP SERVICE AT 10:00) as we seek to cultivate the next fruit of the Spirit: Peace! Break out the oranges for Sunday, and have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Blessings and grace and joy!
Pastor Karen



Fruit of the Spirit – Love (Sermon Series)

Fruit of the Spirit - Love

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I love fruit! And my favorite way to eat fruit is (of course) in the form of dessert. One of my favorite desserts is strawberry shortcake. I really like strawberries on angel food cake, but I think the best is the way I grew up eating it — on bisquick shortcakes. My other favorite fruit and dessert is blackberry pie.

That’s one of the best things about summer — all of the great fruit that is in season.

And so while we are enjoying the sweetness of fresh fruit through the rest of the summer, we are going to talk about the fruit of the Spirit that God intends for us to taste and experience and share in community and in all of our relationships.

The passage about the Fruit of the Spirit actually comes in a larger exhortation about Christian Freedom: For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. For 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. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

For Paul, freedom was about being set free to live an abundant life – a life of love for others, not because we have to, but because we choose to. One writer says “Christianity is not a constricting undergarment. Instead, it is an invitation to freedom from the pulls of corrupted character.”

In Paul’s final verses in chapter 5 (24-26) he writes, And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. He tells his hearers that they are Christ’s and with Christ they have crucified the flesh. That dimension of life no longer has power – even though it pretends to. They now belong to someone whose love can change everything.

In the animated movie, ‘Despicable Me’, Gru is a criminal mastermind and supervillain who has his pride injured when another unknown supervillain steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, making all other villains look lame. Gru decides to do better and seeks to acquire a shrink ray in order to steal the moon. In order to steal the shrink ray, he pretends to be a dentist and adopts three orphan girls so they can sneak onto the base as girls scouts selling cookies, allowing him access to get the shrink ray.

However, as soon as he gets the girls, Gru has difficulty getting them ready for the heist because they are rambunctious,busy with ballet classes, and just busy being kids. Eventually they manage to steal the shrink ray, and then he thinks he will leave them at a theme park, but they spend the day together and he finds himself being incredibly warmed by their presence.

He ends up treating the girls he adopted as his daughters, and we watched a brief clip showing him reading a bed time story he wrote about how three little girls changed his heart.

One critic describes the movie this way: “Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad.”

In the end, their love profoundly changes him for the better.

In John 15, Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”

Paul wants us to embrace our freedom to live for others, just as God, in Jesus Christ, lived for us. The fruit of the Spirit is not a set of laws or practices achieved through our own efforts – they are rather the consequence of hanging out so closely with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first fruit, love, is one that pretty much sums up the whole bible, and some have written that all the other fruits flow from this one. Love is an interesting thing, often we think of it as an emotion. We feel love or we don’t feel love. We fall in love and we fall out of love. I appreciate one of the well-known quotes from the movie, Forrest Gump: “My Mama always said stupid is as stupid does.” Perhaps the verses from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 about Love can summed up similarly: Love is as love does:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love, afterall, is not only an emotion or a fruit, it’s a commandment that we are to follow. It’s what we are to do….Love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

The three little orphaned girls in the movie Despicable Me saw something no one else could ever see in the supervillian Gru: a potential Dad.

What potential does God see in you, that no one else sees?

The longer Gru was in the presence of the three little girls – the more loving he became.

What or who is shaping the fruit you share with the world?

This coming Sunday, we will be looking a the next fruit: Joy! We will have some magnets with Galatians 5:22-23 printed on them to send home with everyone. I hope you will begin to memorize this passage as we seek to stay connected to the vine and allow our lives to produce the fruit of the spirit. If you want, you can eat an apple to get ready for this week’s fruit!

Blessings and grace,
Pastor Karen



Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding

Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

Don’t Lean on Your Understanding

The verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God.

Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.

 

Instead, Acknowledge God. In Everything.

The antidote to this self-reliance is found in the first command of the verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Which is developed in the next verse: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” The word “acknowledge” isn’t merely a polite tip of the hat to the Man Upstairs, or a few words of grace over your meal, or even perfunctory attendance at church to let Him know we’re still cool with what He’s doing. It’s way more. It’s allowing Him access, control, command, and involvement in all your ways.

What’s the result of this? Will God ruin your life? Will he be a Sovereign Killjoy? Will He rob you of fun? The verse ends on a promise. What is it?

 

He will make your paths straight.

The promise is put in the form of a metaphor. What does it mean to have straight paths? Several things. First, paths lead toward an end–a destination, a goal. Thus, trusting God wholeheartedly in every area of life gives your life a sense of purpose and priority. Second, it indicates that there will be a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing. It makes daily decision-making an easier and less painful task. You realize you are trusting Him. He, in turn, is making your paths straight. Thus, the way ahead is more apparent. Third, “straight paths” suggests moral purity. It suggests a life that has less of sinful compromise and more of wholesome attitudes, actions, and behavior.

That’s the kind of life that God promises. It’s the kind of life that you can have. It begins with trust. It involves acknowledging God in every way.



Trust in The Lord

It’s simple. It’s short. Yet it’s incredibly powerful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–with good reason. It sets forth a life-changing truth that is worthy of our attention. Spend three minutes reading this article, and see if you agree.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let’s break down this life-changing truth to make sure we understand it.

 

Trust in the Lord.

It starts with trust. Any real relationship has to start with some level of trust. It’s the only way a friendship will endure. It’s the only way a marriage will work out. It’s the simple reason why an employer hires workers, or why the workers stay employed. It’s all about trust. Trust in the Lord, however, takes on an entirely new dimension. This is our trust in an eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. He is worthy of our trust. The trust is important, not just because of who God is, but because of the way in which we must trust him: with all your heart. It involves every fiber of your being. That’s the kind of trust we can have in God–a complete, unshakable, deep, abiding trust.

If you are a Christian, you trusted God for salvation. You can trust Him with the rest of your life, too–every detail.

 

Read part 2, Don’t Lean On Your Understanding