Easter 6 – May 17 2009 – Fruit

May the words of my lips and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable and pleasingfruit tree to you, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

We can relate to the process of bearing fruit.  Certainly as a farming community, this is a yearly adventure, to bear fruit, or in the case of a grain farm, to bear seed.  Of course, in order to bear seed, there are some requirements, good soil, good seed, good nutrients, good water and a good God.  All of this will surely bear good quality seed.  Some years, rather than requiring these good requirements, we will settle for, or we have to settle for good enough requirements.  Good enough soil, good enough seed, good enough nutrients, good enough water and of course a good enough God.  All of this will then surely bear good enough quality seed.  As we settle for lower quality requirements, we reap lower quality fruit.  The outcome is of course tied to the investment.

Most of us will probably never be satisfied with good enough.  That might be the reason you are still farming, the pursuit of a good crop, rather than just a good enough crop.  As humankind, this is one of our values, the pursuit of excellence, and the notion of try, try again to pursue something that is good, rather than good enough.

And yet, even despite our most valiant efforts, there is only so much of bearing fruit that is in our control.  Yes, the planting of the seed is important, but it is not the most important.  Yes, the fertilizing and nurturing is important, but it is not the most important.  Yes, the harvesting of the seed is important, but it is not the most important.  Yes, the storing, the transporting and the selling of the harvest is important, but it is not the most important.  In fact, the most important process that the whole act of bearing fruit hinges on, is not ours to do.  The actual growing, the actual process of bearing fruit, we have no control over.  This is nature’s job.  The cracking open of the seed, the utilizing of the stored food to break through the top soil, the beginnings of photosynthesis to produce food to provide the energy for growing and the bearing of fruit.  This is not ours to do.

When Jesus appoints us to go and bear fruit, we can resonate with this, because we know how to grow fruit.  Certainly, this fruit that Jesus appoints us to bear is different though.  This fruit could be the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  And yet does one tree, grow more than one type of fruit?  Can one tree bear nine different fruits?  Can one person bear love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  We would like to say of course not, because that would take a lot of work!  We would like to say that one tree can bear four or five or those fruits, especially those four or five that are easy to bear.  But surely it would be unreasonable for us to be expected to bear all nine fruits.  It is unreasonable, a tree can NOT bear nine different fruits, but a tree can not even bear four or five different.  A tree can only bear one fruit.  And so we too are only to bear one fruit.  As Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  This is the fruit we are to bear.  An all encompassing fruit, a fruit full of goodness, a fruit given to us from the Father: love.

If we know the fruit that we are to bear, then we need to work on how to bear this fruit.  We have to remember that we do not make the seed of our fields grow.  We can not command the seed to bear fruit.  We can not say “GROW” and the seed will grow.  In this way, neither do we make the fruit of love grow.  It is not to be commanded, or told what to do.  The seed of the field grows on its own, because we create the conditions and give the seed what it needs to grow.  This is faith.  To bear love, we can NOT command love to grow, but we can create the conditions and give love what it needs to grow.

A fruit needs a seed to grow.  The seed for love comes from our Father.  We are only able to love because God first loved us.  We are only able to choose love, because God chose us.  Jesus says to us, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”  God’s seed of love comes to us in creation, it comes to us in the water, in Baptism, and it comes to us in the blood, in Communion.  In all of these, it is God who initiates, God who creates, and God who grows.  This is where we get the seed from to grow fruit.  This is not our doing, we can not create the seed, it is God’s.  This is God’s good work.

In order to grow, a seed needs to die to grow.  We compare this death of the seed, to the death of Christ.  A seed dies in order for the plant to live.  Christ dies so that we might live.  While living, His life was a life of sacrifice, of giving away love so that others might live.  He ultimately gave Himself in love in the great sacrifice, in death, so that all might live.  As Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  The death of the seed we are given has already occurred.  It occurred two thousand years ago, on the Place of the Skull.  And so the seed has died, but will give way to life if grown in the right conditions.

A fruit also needs the right conditions to grow.  In general, to be fruitful, a seed needs good soil, good nutrients, good moisture and good temperatures to grow.  Our seeds also need the right conditions to grow.  For the seed that we were given to grow, it must be surrounded by goodness.  The soil is what we surround ourselves with.  We must surround ourselves in only the best conditions, be around the best people, be in the best conditions.  This includes being around people that build us up, not people that tear us down.  Being around people that encourage us in faith and encourage us to stand our ground rather than being in and around people that will tear us down.  The nutrients are the blood, given to us in Communion.  The moisture is given to us in Baptism.  And the good temperatures are brought by the light of the Son, not the s-u-n, but by the S-o-n, the Light of World in the Christmas story.  We all know where we need to be in order for our fruit to be given the best conditions.  We need to get there.

A fruit needs to be given away in order to grow more fruit.  You certainly understand that the seed that you plant in the spring and harvest in the fall is not for you, but it is bore for others.  The fruit of a tree does not stay on the tree.  It is given away, so that the fruit of the tree is spread around, so that it might prosper in other areas.  Our fruit is not to stay on our tree either.  It is to be given away.  Just as Christ sacrificed himself, we are to sacrifice, to die to ourselves, to give away our love, so that others may live.  This is the commandment we were given.  Not necessarily to physically die, although we may be called to that, but to die to ourselves, to sacrifice, and to give our fruit away.  And this fruit is not to discriminate, as Peter noticed that even the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit.  The seed that we were given, the love we were given, is to be given away.  To be sacrificed so that it can grow again.

In our day to day affairs this growing of fruit is hard.  It is hard to realize that we have been given the seed, to believe that Christ, the bringer of love to a hateful world, died so that we might live.   As we get busy with life, we convince ourselves that we deserve this love, or that we don’t need it.  We turn our backs, and get caught in our selfish ways.  We cut corners in our good relationships, we invest in activities that are not conducive to fruit bearing, and we get distracted by the “goods” of life, rather than the goodness of life.

Certainly this earthly kingdom is not easy to grow fruit in.  But there is one man’s story that sticks out when it comes to bearing fruit in difficult conditions.  Henry was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962, and by the age of six, had already experienced hardship.  His mother passed away from MS, and the following Christmas his father passed away in a house fire.  Henry was then raised by his older brother Edgar, who was 22 at the time, and when Edgar passed away from MS, Henry and his siblings were faced with being placed in an orphan home.  An aunt took the seven children in to keep the family together.  Out of the ten children, only Henry and a sister remain.  One sister died of a drug overdose, one brother died from a gunshot wound, and the rest have passed away from MS.  Nobody in his family lived to see the age of 35, and yet Henry will be 46 at the end of this month.  In a biography of Henry, he says, “People ask me if I worry about it,” he said. “I never worry about something I can’t control. I believe in God. I was scared for my kids, but they’ve both tested negative for the muscle disease.  “It’s still wiping out people in my family. I had two nieces die from it a couple of weeks ago.”  The biography goes on, “Given all he has been through and all he might face one day, Gizmo Williams could be forgiven if he was cynical and sullen.  He is none of that. Exactly the opposite.”  That’s right.  This Henry is none other than Henry “Gizmo” Williams, holder of 21 CFL records and of many fans’ hearts, and now is a motivational speaker.  He is probably one of the most jovial people I have ever witnessed, and despite his difficult conditions, somehow a seed grew, and Gizmo Williams has bore much fruit through his demeanour, his attitude and his small powerful punch.

We must remember that we are not the ones in control of letting the seed grow.  If we were, seeds would never grow in difficult circumstances.  One needs to only look at a dandelion growing in a crack of cement, or a spruce tree growing out the side of a mountain to realize that any seed can grow anywhere.  For this is not our fruit that is growing; it is God’s fruit.  As Erik Parker writes, “The fruit that God bears in the World is the Gospel. In the Church we find it in Baptism, and Communion. We are named and claimed children of God and nourished for God mission and forgiven our sins. After that we sent out into the free to be God hands and feet. Free to see God working.”

While we can help the seed to grow to bear fruit, it is faith and love that allow us to bear God’s fruit, whether in the field or in our hearts.  As seeds we are washed in the water of Baptism and made clean in the blood of the Lamb in Communion, and given the seed of love from the Father through His Son.  And as we walk in God’s garden, we are called to spread His fruit around, fruit that will last so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in Jesus’ name. Jesus gave us these commands so that we may love one another.  Amen.  And may the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

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