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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Cultivating Fruitful Lives of Faith

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

June 3, 2018

Galatians 5:13-26

 

Who here has experience growing fruit? I know some of you have berry patches because you’ve brought me raspberries, which I love. Some of you have brought in delicious desserts made from the strawberries or blueberries from your gardens. Yum!

I imagine some of you have grown melons like watermelon or cantaloupe. They take over the whole garden if you’re not careful!

 

Some of you have apple trees and cherry and plum trees have been in bloom recently. They always look so beautiful in the spring. We have a crab apple tree in our front yard that Randy got me as a birthday gift years ago. Since I have a May birthday we always notice how full the white blossoms are at the time of my birthday. I was afraid that this year, with the April 15 blizzard, it would get off to a slow start, but it made up for lost time once that snow melted. It was in full bloom on my birthday again this year, even with the late season snow.

 

We’re starting a sermon series on the Fruit of the Spirit. Knowing something about growing fruits and vegetables is helpful as we think about cultivating Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Both require nurturing and tending. If you plant a garden, you can’t just put the seeds in the ground, come back at the end of summer, and expect to have a good harvest.

 

Actually, we tried that here a couple of years ago. Our congregation decided to plant a community garden for Earth Day and planted many seeds. But we hadn’t thought through who was going to tend this garden. No one really took ownership of it. Some of the seeds sprouted and died from lack of attention. Others were taken home and added to people’s gardens at home. We saw that if you don’t make the commitment to take care of a garden, if won’t flourish. All you get are dried up sickly plants.

 

To have a bountiful harvest you need to water and fertilize the plants and pull the weeds. You also need to attend to pests and diseases and keep away hungry critters that would steal and devour the plants and their tender, young fruits. It is demanding work but rewarding. Tending a fruitful garden requires love, attention, care, and commitment.

 

Growing fruit in our faith lives is a similar process. Baptism is a time where the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s soul, starting the process of bringing them to faith. But that doesn’t mean we can just baptize the person and then leave them alone. As a faith community, we make a commitment to nurture a person’s growth in faith – by putting in their hands the holy scriptures and providing opportunities to learn about faith through Sunday School, VBS, and Confirmation. When a child is baptized the parents make a commitment to bring them regularly to worship, to participate in the community of faith and to partake of the sacrament of Holy Communion. We all agree to pray for them and to teach them to pray. We do all this so that the child will grow in faith and ultimately learn to “trust God and proclaim Christ through word and deed, to care for others and the world God made and work for justice and peace.”

 

If the child is baptized and never sets foot in the church again, the Holy Spirit can bring them to faith, but their faith may be stunted. It works better when we, as a faith community, partner with the Holy Spirit in nurturing that person in faith and cultivating discipleship. A deep life of faith does not come from having your name on a baptism certificate.  Rather it is a life-long process of living into one’s identity as a beloved child of God.

 

A couple of weeks ago 12 young people affirmed their baptismal vows in the rite of Confirmation. In doing so, they claimed their faith as their own and took responsibility for their own lives of faith. Their faith will be more fruitful if they continue in regular worship attendance and continue doing those same things that brought them to this point – read their Bible, study God’s word, pray, worship, serve and participate actively in the life of the church. That is a good plan for all of us!

 

Today we celebrate with our graduates as they mark this important milestone in their lives. Some will be going off to college, others will do other things. In any case, they are entering into the world as adults, with full responsibility for how they live their lives. They will have new freedom to make choices about how to live their lives. Mom and Dad won’t be there guiding them day to day as they have in the past. Graduates, this is an important time to think about the role faith will play in your life and how you will partner with the Holy Spirit in nurturing it.

 

This scripture for today from Galatians is relevant as we think about how we’re partnering with the Holy Spirit in cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Paul wrote this scripture as a letter to the church at Galatia. People there were trying to figure out how to live their lives as Christians. The people of Galatia had not been raised in the Jewish tradition. They were Gentiles, unfamiliar with how to order their lives to support their faith.

 

Some people thought that to be a faithful Christian, they needed to adopt all of the Jewish traditions. That involved following the dietary laws and becoming circumcised. Paul told them no, that was not necessary. The Jews had proven that people can’t follow all the laws perfectly. They aren’t able to earn their own salvation. That is why Jesus had to come and to die, so that their sins might be forgiven. Through his life, death and resurrection Jesus freed them and us from using the Law as our means of salvation

 

So if they don’t need to follow the Jewish laws, did that mean they can do whatever they want? Does that mean we can do whatever we want? Are we free to live wild lives since our sins are forgiven?

 

In our scripture Paul painted a picture of what it looks like to live unbridled lives of sin. In our scripture for today from The Message he tells us: “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time.” Then he lists some things like: “mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never satisfied wants; a brutal temper; divided homes and divided lives; depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community.”

 

How appealing does that life sound? The Message puts it in contemporary language, which is accessible, but also long winded. It helps to hear it in the NRSV translation of that same passage which is more concise. There Paul writes: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”

 

Is that the kind of person you want to become? Is that the kind of person you would want to marry? or hire as an employee? or have as a friend? It sounds pretty miserable! Chaotic! Upsetting! But when we look around the world today, that is the life that many people lead. We hear about it in the news each day. We see it in the broken parts of our community. It’s not a pretty picture! Using our freedom to live lives of selfish desire                         produces rotten fruit. Not the kind of fruit any of us would want to eat, much less use as the model for our lives.

 

Paul tells the Galatians that instead of unbridled freedom to do whatever they felt like, they need to live lives of love of God and love and service to neighbors. He draws a comparison saying in The Message: “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

 

Doesn’t that sound more appealing? Wouldn’t you rather live this kind of life? Again, I think it helps to also hear the list of Fruit of the Spirit from the NRSV: Paul writes “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

 

Living your life with these fruits sounds much happier. his presents a picture of the good life God wants for us. God wants us to be happy. God wants us to live with one another in ways that are faithful, dependable and loving. The kind of fruit you harvest will depend on how you live your life.

 

It is easy to get tempted to think that living lives of total freedom, (or going after whatever, we want with no rules), is the way to happiness. But that is what leads to the rotten fruits of: “strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing.”

 

What yields the good fruits like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” is living your life in harmony with God’s will.

 

When I was in college I got the nickname “Two Shoes” short for “Goodie Two Shoes.” Many of my college classmates went out drinking at the local bars, doing drugs, coming back to the dorm drunk, high, and obnoxious. I didn’t do that. As a Christian, that wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. Others got into promiscuous relationships which inevitably led to heartache. People could see that I wasn’t fitting in with the crowd. I took some flak for that. But to this day I feel good about the choices I made.

 

Graduates as you go out into the world, you will face these kinds of temptations and more. There are many people who will try to tempt you to use your new freedom in ways that lead to rotten fruit. Remember who you are. You are God’s beloved child, named and claimed by him. Live your life in ways that reflect that. Do the things that will nurture your faith, not pull you away from it. Find a church or a Christian organization on campus and be active in it. Take your Bible with you and use it! God’s word is a lamp unto your feet and a light onto your path. Surround yourself with Christian friends who will make good choices rather than lead you astray. And don’t forget to pray. As you pray, God will guide you.

 

That is a good reminder for all of us. Be intentional about living your life in ways that reflect your love for God and love for others. Partner with the Holy Spirit in cultivating the fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” As you do, you will reap a bountiful harvest of juicy fruit, that is tasty for you and appetizing for those around you. May God bless you in living a fruitful life of faith. Amen!