For 4 May 2020: Fourth Monday of Easter
Read: Galatians 5:16-26
One of the temptations we all face is to see an accomplishment as something singular which we alone accomplished. There really are few of those type happenings in our lives and world. To climb Mount Everest, you need a team, coaches, and training. We all need another racer or a clock in order to run a race. There are very few things in life which we truly do by ourselves. Teachers, parents, friends, and even strangers all contribute in different ways to our own accomplishments. A home repair job completed most likely isn’t completed without the assistance of someone at the hardware store. Help comes in many ways with varying degrees of assistance. Gratitude, I hope, comes, too.
I was blessed with a scholarship through seminary from the state chapter of the Oder of the Eastern Star. I am grateful for the assistance they provided me. I may have been the one to graduate but I didn’t do it alone. Other’s helped in so many ways. I am grateful to this day for their assistance. The Galatians 5 reading I asked you to read contrasts two ways of looking at the world. The first way Paul describes is a “way of flesh.” He names a great many daily attitudes and experiences which we witness both in ourselves and in others. The second way Paul describes is a “way of the Spirit.” Again, he names a great many daily attitudes and experiences which we witness both in ourselves and in others.
It is the last verse, verse 26, which is truly the one which drives home Paul’s point: Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26, NRSV). Paul understood that the fruit of the Spirit can be misunderstood. Instead of bringing some to humility and gratitude, spiritual growth leads some to being conceited, competitive and envious in both our physical life (the “way of the flesh”) and in our spiritual life (the “way of the Spirit”). There is a small word of caution along with this important Biblical teaching on the fruit of the Spirit. Our spiritual lives are not meant to be lived in a singularity. Our spiritual lives are to be shared! Sharing our spiritual lives with one another for the purpose of building-up is one of the greatest gifts we have as a community of faith.
Many years ago, I was in a spiritual and emotional place which was best described as lost. I was young, maybe all of 18 or 19 years old. Circumstances in my life left me with many questions which I couldn’t answer. It was a hot July afternoon. Dad and I were working with a crew baling hay. Mom signaled dinner (the noon meal for us) was ready. The rest of the crew sauntered toward the barns where everyone could brush the dust and dirt off their clothes, and wash hands and faces before going to the house to eat. I wasn’t feeling particularly social and lingered at the back of the pack. Dad caught up with me and we walked the short distance together. He knew I was upset and pondering many things. With a soft, calm, assuring voice, he looked me in the eye and said, “You may have lost one pebble, but there are many more on the beach. It’s not which pebble you find but how you walk the beach which matters.” My father shared with me a simple truth which applied to the circumstances of my life both then and every day since. Each of us can get lost in the distraction of “me.”
What is keeping you from living in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? What is taking your joy and peace? What is stopping you from loving? Where is kindness and patience not needed? When was generosity of spirit not needed? Is faithfulness to costly? Will gentleness and self-control offend you or others? Who are the examples from your life who have taught you how to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? What is stopping you from following their example? I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for the small witness of my dad all those years ago walking to the house for dinner.