October 24, 2017

The Homily

apple-tree-056fb57ed927bf3668ef04e5b9850e99363b87fe-s6-c30The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2: 8,9 NASB)

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15: 4,5, NASB)

The Spirit however, produces in human life fruits such as these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control—and no law exists against any of them. (Galatians 5:22, Phillips)

One of the things I love about fall is the taste of fresh apples. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an apple snob. I can barely eat Red Delicious. Gala and Fuji are ok. I could eat Honeycrisp apples until I burst. About twenty years ago when I was a high school teacher in Ohio, our principal brought in a bushel of Black Twig apples. I fell in love with those apples, but once they were gone, they were gone. I have never found them again.

In the spring my tastes turn to grapefruit. I love the tartness of grapefruit. Through some connection I’m not really clear on, my son-in-law’s step-grandfather gets fresh-picked grapefruit from Texas each spring, and a bag of it usually makes its way to me.

In the summer, raspberries, blackberries and peaches make me very happy.

In other words, I like fruit. And unlike Clark Bars (which I also like), fruit is good for me. Fruit boosts the immune system, acting like a wall to keep out harmful things (I hope I’m not losing you with my medical jargon) and strengthens the good things in my body. If you don’t eat enough fruit, you can get dry hair and skin, be susceptible to illness and disease, or even end up with scurvy. (Not only pirates get scurvy, you know.) Fruit is vital to our health—fortunately, God made it delicious for us to eat.

Even more vital to our health, our spiritual health, is the fruit born of the Holy Spirit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Generosity. Fidelity. Tolerance. Self-control. These are actions, responses and character traits that are produced by the Spirit of God in those who are branches attached to the Vine. These are not traits we are to work up in ourselves. This is fruit only the Spirit can create in us.

Here is the point I’m trying to get across today.

The fruit that God produces in my life is not for me to eat. It is for others to pick from my branches and enjoy.

The fruit of love in my life is not for me to feel loved. It is for others to feel the love of God thru me. Peace is not so I am not worried. It is so others can see the Prince of Peace. Generosity is me giving. Joy is me celebrating an event in someone else’s life.

Let us go back to the very beginning. In Genesis we read of two fruit-bearing trees God planted in the Garden of Eden. One gave eternal life, the other the ability to know right from wrong. (Isn’t it interesting that God never intended for us to take on the burden of knowing right from wrong?) Once we partook of the fruit forbidden us, the fruit leading to eternal life was put off-limits to us. For thousands of years God required us to know and obey laws that spelled out right from wrong. It was as if God said, “If that’s the way you want it, then that’s how we will play.”

Then, in the fullness of time, God opened the Garden to us one again. Now it was called the Kingdom of Heaven. And the Tree of Life was in the shape of a cross. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the Tree of Life. We are branches on the Tree, and the Life is given through the fruit the Holy Spirit bears on those branches.

Who can come and eat of this fruit? Everyone is invited. We do not get to choose who will pick the fruit of self-control from us. Or the fruit of patience, or kindness. How can we deny speaking a kind word to anyone? It is not our fruit to hoard or hold back. If we are to be connected to the vine, we have to realize we will be picked over by all the master of the vineyard invites to his fields. We cannot erect a wall around ourselves and deny anyone the right to help himself to the fruit on our branches.

I need the fruit of the Spirit to be spiritually healthy, but I don’t eat the fruit hanging on my own branch. I need you for that. I need joy and peace and love from you. And if I come to you hoping to find a Black Twig, but the Spirit has your branch adorned with Jonagolds, I can’t be angry with you or claim you are not of the Kingdom. I thank the Lord for the fruit that is provided.

We have been invited back into the Garden, and the Tree of Life is once again there for us to eat from. And once we have, we become a part of that Tree, and others come and eat the Fruit of Life from us. What a great privilege it is to be a bearer of the fruit of the Spirit.

Let us pray.

Comments

  1. ” And if I come to you hoping to find a Black Twig, but the Spirit has your branch adorned with Jonagolds, I can’t be angry with you or claim you are not of the Kingdom. I thank the Lord for the fruit that is provided.”

    “One law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression…” William Blake

  2. Beautiful homily, Jeff!

    I read somewhere something like, “It’s not how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.” I disagree. Lots of people can love you, but if you are not a loving person yourself, it’s all for naught. At least, that’s my opinion.

    I love me a good Cortland apple! Crispy! Red Delicious doesn’t even taste like an apple to me.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi JOANIE D.

      I was introduced to Cortlandts up in New York State at a road-side stand called ‘Apple Annie’s’ . . . great eating apple, crisp and sweet and tangy at the same time . . . it was love at first bite 🙂

      • Empire apples are yummy too. BUT…I made a pie with both Empire and Cortland apples and one type was still a bit too…what is the word?….not crispy, but something like that. Anyway, the Cortland apples were older and I think it was the Empire apples that tasted less cooked than the Cortland. Live and learn!

  3. Brianthedad says:

    Great homily and a super way to start a Sunday morning.

    I’m a bit of an apple snob myself. I’m going to look for the cortland and the honeycrisp. Based on what I can find, Black twigs are only readily available to those who are able to grow their own. They are no longer commercially produced due to market changes in the cider industry.

  4. “…and no law exists against any of them.”
    For years, I read this phrase struck me as odd afterthought, like “P.S.:another nice thing about the fruit of the Spirit is that it’s not illegal to be loving, joyful and peaceful, etc.”. The phrase “against the law” was used in every other context in life to denote something that was criminal activity.
    I now think that it reads more like “there is no system of law which is an alternative way to produce love, joy, peace, in your life, as compared to the fruit of God’s Spirit in you”.
    The law, even God’s law given to Moses, can’t compare ‘against’ the superiority of Christ himself.

  5. Jerry Goodman says:

    Powerful, not the world’s idea of power, but God’s power. Every fall we take an “apple” trip here in the Northwest to the Hood River Valley to our favorite orchard to purchase a huge variety of apples, pears. I am struck by what we enjoy is the labor of God’s creativity and the hard work of the orchardists. In the soil is where the roots draw their strength to hopefully produce the fruit of love. Their is a picture here of what God does in any who desire to follow and obey Jesus in the Holy Spirit. So thank you for this treasure of this post.

  6. David Cornwell says:

    Jeff’s homilies are gentle, but prodding reminders that point us to what real life in Christ is all about.

    As for apples– I love the good old Granny Smith. It is tangy and crisp and gives my tongue that special funny tingly sensation that it is so good at delivering. I remember when we were kids that my mom always warned us about “green apples.” They would give us a stomach ache, or worse. But, there was this wild orchard a short walk from home and those little green apples hung from the branches with them temptation that just one bite won’t hurt.

    But somehow I still think God made them little green apples.

    • flatrocker says:

      And I hear it’s not as dry in Indianapolis this past summer as we’ve been led to believe.

  7. Like.

  8. Jeff,

    Great perspective on that passage. Thanks.

    Ever had an Arkansas Black?