As part of my Lenten journey this year, I will be blogging daily using the themes or words created by the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin in partnership with other ELCA synods for “Lent Photo a Day.” The word for today, March 7th, is “Fruit.”
Did you grow up hearing the adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”
I’m not sure I ever believed that, but as I think back to a year living in California where I probably had my best balanced diet and did my most walking ever, I could see the merit in it. I did in fact nearly have an apple a day that year, and I was hardly ever sick. So, maybe there is a correlation?
In thinking of apples and fruit today, I am thinking about the fruit of the spirit.
The apostle Paul writes,
“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 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. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:22-26, NRSV.
Sometimes you might hear these fruits and think of someone as a passive, mild, and meek individual. Perhaps they are. But “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” are not always easy things, and often they require more action, strength, courage, and leadership than we might expect.
I suspect that this year will be such a year where these fruits will require more action than many of us are used to. Are we up for the task with God’s help?
To put it another way, ponder these questions with me:
- Are we up to the task and calling to show love to all people, no matter if we agree with them at all times or not?
- Are we able to find joy, like the joy of a child in our life, joy in God’s gift and promise of abundant life?
- Are we able to center ourselves in the assurance of the peace that surpasses all understanding?
- Will we strive to be patient with those we live, love, and serve with, as well as those whom we are in relationship with?
- Are we able to show kindness to all, especially those marginalized, victimized, living in fear of decisions and potential decisions being made that could turn life upside down or worse?
- Are we willing to be generous at all times because God is generous?
- Will we be faithful by: living among God’s faithful people, hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s supper, proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth?
- In all that we do, will we strive to live gently with those around us, working to reconcile and strengthen relationships?
- Will we exercise self-control to the best of our abilities?
These are lots of questions, and I’m not sure that I could answer all of these in the affirmative. But perhaps they are helpful in light of centering ourselves this season of Lent, and in living out our baptismal callings and vocations as Children of God?
However you answer these questions inspired by the fruit of the spirit, know that we are in this together as Children of God, called, created, and loved by a God who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Let us close today’s reflection with a prayer often heard following baptism or the affirmation of the congregation:
We give you thanks, O God, that through water and the Holy Spirit you give us new birth, cleanse us from sin, and raise us to eternal life. Stir up in your people the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.
As we continue together our journey through Lent to the cross, join me in pondering these questions, and join the #LentPhotoaDay adventure through images and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media channels.
References: Question 7 was taken from the affirmation of baptism liturgy along with the closing prayer, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), pages 236-237.