FRUIT SALAD – Dr. Jan Rivero
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Fruit salad. Making fruit salad is a little like making chicken soup. Everyone has a favorite recipe. Itâ€™s their own recipe. It might be one that was passed down from grandma. Or one found in a cookbook that has been tweaked here and there over the years. My mother used to make a mean Waldorf salad: apples, walnuts, celery and grapes. Once in a while she would mix things up and make an Ambrosia with oranges, coconut, pineapples and cherries. Itâ€™s the height of summer fruit salad season with berries and melons stocking the markets.The trick to making a good fruit salad, like any other recipe, is knowing which ingredients go best together and then getting the freshest, the tastiest ingredients you can find. Itâ€™s all about whatâ€™s in it that determines the finest results.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit, he certainly wasnâ€™t thinking fruit salad. But when you consider the list he made, it seems to me to be a kind of recipe for the Christian life. It is a list of qualities generated in those lives grounded in Christ. It is a list of character outcomes resulting from following Jesus, ingredients that make for a good life, a solid community, a peaceable kingdom. Paul wrote, â€œYou were called to freedom, but do not use that freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.â€ The freedom given to us in Christ by the power of Godâ€™s Spirit was not intended for selfish purposes but for the good of the whole. Not intended for self-satisfaction but for the benefit of the community. Not intended for self-promotion but for the elevation of the whole people of God. The ingredients of our life together are what Paul called the fruits of the Spirit.
What I invite you to this morning is less of a sermon and more of a meditation on these fruits of the Spirit. I will read you something written on each â€œfruitâ€, each followed by a few moments for silent reflection.
Love. Our freedom is for love. William Harkins, Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary tells the story of a friend and colleague who was in his last days of life. In one of their last conversations he said â€œI have had so much love.â€ â€œYes,â€ Harkins replied, â€œthere are so many who love you and are grateful for you.â€ â€œThat may be,â€ the friend replied, â€œbut what I mean is there are so many whom I have loved. I have so much gratitude for the love God has enabled me to give away. My decision not to continue treatment has given me the freedom to see in a new way how much love there has been, is now, and will be. Love is meant to be given away. That is what incarnation is all about.â€ In silence will you consider how your life manifests Godâ€™s love?
Joy and Peace. In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Tahn writes â€œJoy and peace are the joy and peace possible in this very hour of sitting. If you cannot find it here, you wonâ€™t find it anywhere. Donâ€™t chase after your thoughts as a shadow follows its object. Donâ€™t run after your thoughts. Find joy and peace in this very moment. This is your own time. This spot where you sit is your own spot. It is on this very spot and in this very moment that you can become enlightened. You donâ€™t have to sit beneath a special tree in a distant land. Practice like this for a few months, and you will begin to know profound and renewing joy and peace.â€ Find it now in the silence.
Patience or forbearance. As a young person I was painfully aware that impatience was a cornerstone of my existence. I used to say when God was giving out patience I was at the end of the line and he ran out before he got to me. Then I became a parent. And I learned a lot about patience. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the book Wherever You Go There You Are, says this â€œPatience is an ever present alternative to the mindâ€™s endemic restlessness and impatience. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. Itâ€™s the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or some thing for it. This doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t hurry when you have to. It is possible even to hurry patiently, mindfully, moving fast because you have chosen to.â€ In the stillness find your patience.
Kindness. Baptist pastor, Carol Holtz-Martin, tells the story of her first foray into living abroad. â€œThe first six months I lived overseas I was awash in loneliness; late each weekday I would buy a paperback and read it to make endurable the solitary evening. Over the weekends a group of American teachers would meet and critique the culture that functioned so differently from our own. Sunday nights the homesickness sharpened as I found my way back to the flat I shared, with a mattress on the floor and increasing homesickness. Finally, it was make-or-break time. I would cut the ties that bound me to my discontent and try my host country on its own terms. I visited a church near my workplace. The second time I showed up, the head usher remembered me, his kindness startling tears into my eyes.â€ The effect of that kindness shown to her had the effect of connecting her to Jesus in such a way as to permeate every aspect of her life. And she writes, â€œIt was a wondrous thing to stumble into the kindness of the living God.â€ How you live out the kindness of Christ?
Goodness and Faithfulness. Author CS Lewis pondered the question â€œWhat leads the Christian home – goodness or faithfulness?â€ He concluded that faith in Christ is the only thing that saves us from despair, and from our faithfulness comes good actions or goodness. He observed that some argue that good actions are all that matter – helping the poor, the outcast, the downtrodden. Lewis thought that is nonsense. From that thinking one would conclude that heaven can be bought. Others argue that faith is all that matters and if you have faith it doesnâ€™t matter what you do. Lewis thought that too is nonsense. If what you call your â€˜faith in Christâ€™ does not involve taking the slightest notice of the other who is in need then it is not faithfulness at all but only â€œintellectual acceptance of some theory about God.â€ He writes, â€œThe Bible seems to clinch the matter when it puts the two things together into one amazing sentence. The first half is, â€˜Work out your own salvation with fear and tremblingâ€™ – which looks as if everything depends on us and our goodness. But the second half goes on. â€˜For it is God who works in youâ€™ – which looks as if God did everything and we did nothing.â€ Do you live out both faithfulness and goodness?
Gentleness. The late Henri Nouwen wrote, â€œOnce in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu. Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other, and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.â€ Where to you approach life with gentleness?
Self-control. Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr teaches about the first and second half of life. He says that the first half is about creating your life vessel – your identity, your career, your family. In this half, he says self-control is designed to control oneâ€™s destiny. As we age, our bodies, our souls and our failures teach us that we clearly are not in control. â€œThis is not a negative discovery, but a thrilling discovery of divine providence,â€ he writes, â€œbeing led, used, guided; having an inner purpose and sense of personal vocation; owning oneâ€™s destiny as a gift from God. Learning you are not in control situates you correctly in the universe. You know you are being guided, and your reliance on that guidance is precisely what allows your journey to happen.â€ He frames this letting go as the task of the second half of life. â€œThe â€˜need virtuesâ€™ in the first half of life are quite rightly about self-control; in the second half they are about giving up control.â€ I would argue that giving up control is, in fact, another form of self-control. Letting God be God and trusting what will be. Can you let God be God?
Paulâ€™s words to the church at Galatia and to the church called Wesley Memorial are a call to live from the inner fountains of the spirit of Christ dwelling deep within us. From there that these qualities of character flow. They come not as a law of a new Christian culture, but in freedom, as a new principle of life – a life of grace with God.
As we follow Jesus in the world, Godâ€™s Holy Spirit forms us to be a particular kind of people. What God has done for us in Christ shapes our desires and the way we love our neighbors. Christâ€™s perfect freedom engages us in a call that holds in it obligation to others, investment in the community of faith and existence in the world with an openness such that our neighborâ€™s well-being is part and parcel of our own. We are the choice ingredients in the fruit salad of the Spirit. It is all about what is in us that determines the finest results. And Godâ€™s people said Amen.