Grace in Harvest

This week’s Scripture Galatians 6: 6-10 New International Version (NIV)

6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When I built my first family room, I received a great gift. That gift was the admonition of Dave McIntosh when he said, “Preparing to build is half the task.” I was like alot of do-it-yourselfers in that I wanted to take off and start building. Dave helped me discover the task of surveying the need, estimating the removal of obstacles and then start the building.  Today the 525 square foot family room sits beautifully on the property and my son, Erik, maintains his home in that house.

Paul has done the same thing for the Galatians and for us.  He has warned us that half measures or merely serving our innate interests produces a crop of less than perfect fruit.  It becomes such because of several different possibilities. First, there is the possibility of sowing the wrong seed; seed which will produce a bad fruit.  Then the possibility exists that our fainthearted effort at being a farmer will result in half-finished effort.

I’ve started many things in my life which grew difficult because I began with the wrong materials, the wrong motivation or the simply because I was easily distracted. Paul has invited us to take a serious look at the task of love and the complete dedication that it takes to produce a harvest. While forgiveness is an essential element of our life task, so too is dedication. “Don’t grow weary in doing good.”

Grace in Admonition

This week’s sermon passage: Galatians 6:1-5.

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Who would have thought that the notion of being a loving, concerned community that carried each other’s burdens would actually be considered an intrusive lifestyle? I afear it is true today. In the quest for individualism there is a desperate claim on personal privatism and in the advance of koinonia and purity there has been cultic hegemony. The net result is a continued isolation from loving, laughing and shared communalism.

One example of this revolves around my status as a single pastor. I do not like sharing such personal AND professional examples but it is a small moment which points to the difficulty of these verses of Galatians.In this adult retirement community, the aging process exhibits a wide variety of consequences. One such consequence is that there are many more single women living here in Oakmont than there are men. In the course of visiting the sick, my visitations are often a tender experience of sharing, praying and crying. For many of the women here, this is a small gift of tender mercy that many have not experienced since their mates have died.  They often interpret this closeness in romantic terms and thus consequently they express the need for more attention and affection.

When this impression is not shared, but, in truth, clarified or even rebuffed, there is often embarassment and disappointment.  We must work hard to get over the shame that this causes some people and often they turn down future efforts to visit because they are too humiliated by their own emotional responses. Instead of holy, supportive moments during their recovery, they are isolated even further. Our only church response is to send only other women to visit them.

This gender divide is only part of the schism that keeps us from being a full blown community. This example is certainly not a moment when someone is acting sinfully, as per Galatians, but speaks to the challenges of helping people stay independent and yet connected in every way. You can imagine how much more difficult it is when someone is actively trapped in “sinful” behavior and when they require the gentle correction that this passage envisages.

My only recourse is to humbly offer myself to a congregation and allow them free access to challenge my motivations or to point out weaknesses in my own lifestyle. By doing so, I can give them opportunities to see how admonition should work. After all the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, peace, patience…etc. (Galatians 5:22-26)

Grace in the Fruit of the Spirit

Perhaps the most important gift given to me by Pastor Bob Hughes was his exemplary life of love. He loved God’s Word, his family and the church congregation that we served together. He understood humanity’s shortcomings (nothing ever surprised him) and human giftedness. He gave countless young adults opportunities to lead and serve.

This quality of leadership sprung from his understanding of Galatians 5:19-26, a passage that I will cover in my message this Sunday. As such, he understood that the fruit of the Spirit was a singular fruit; that being love. The rest of the list of Paul’s “fruit;” peace, patience, goodness, et al. were character traits of the singular fruit- LOVE.

Others have distinguished the fruit of the Spirit as an array of qualities but for me, I see the overarching appeal that Paul has made to choose love over any other credo. I find it central to the argument that love versus law is at the heart of the Gospel.