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Fruit of the Spirit – part three

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Seventh Sunday of Pentecost – July 8, 2018

Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:4-5

Did you know that at one time generosity was illegal in Santa Cruz, California? That’s right. It was illegal for someone to put money in other people’s parking meters without their permission. The practice called “plugging coins” was considered an illegal act by Santa Cruz municipal code. The fine for a parking violation was $12.00. The penalty for “plugging” was thirteen dollars.

Mr. Twister whose real name is Cory McDonald, is a professional clown and balloon twister. He has spared many car owners in Santa Cruz, California the misery of that twelve dollar parking ticket by putting quarters in their expired parking meters. After several warnings, Mr. Twister was ticketed for his random acts of illegal kindness. However, he refused to stop doing what he considers “doing to others as he would have them do to him.”

But there is justice. In a strange twist, the news media got hold of the story and pretty soon Mr. Twister was being interviewed by large broadcasting corporations. His acts of kindness prevailed. Declaring the law a “public relationship disaster,” the Santa Cruz City Council took emergency action to yank the law from the books immediately. In an effort to show their support and their chagrin, each member of the City Council, along with the mayor, donned red clown noses and beeped their vote of approval.

All Mr. Twister ever really wanted was for people to be nice to each other and help in whatever way they can. That’s all. 1.) 

I can’t help but wonder how much this action of Mr. Twister could be seen as in line with the “fruit of the Spirit”? The thing is that we were created to have fun in this life, good solid fun. I couldn’t ever think that God intended us to be people that strain ourselves with all kinds of laws to do what is described as right before God. 

Our church’s document Living Faith puts it so aptly: “There is one true God whom to know is life eternal, whom to serve is joy and peace.”

The thing is that we’ve been redeemed by Christ to be free from having to do the right thing, and to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Spirit could also be described as “wind” and wind is what pushes a boat in the right direction when the sails are directed to catch the wind. It could be said that the sails of a sailboat receive the wind in order to go where it is intended to go. 

God’s wind, the Holy Spirit leads us into lives that bear fruit. 

Last week we had a look at the fruit of love, joy and peace, and this week we focus on patience, kindness and generosity. 

It is important to bear in mind that there is no way in which we can train ourselves to obtain these fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit equips us with the fruit of patience, kindness and generosity. When we see them in a person’s life, it shows that the Spirit of God is allowed to work in such a person’s life.

These fruit don’t come easily for anyone that pursues them. I wonder whether it isn’t rather a matter of “letting go, and letting God”? I presume so, but even this doesn’t happen naturally. Our natural inclination is to rather want to hold on tight and thereby not really “letting go and letting God.”

As we saw last week, all the fruit of the Spirit flow from the first fruit mentioned, which is love. Patience then, is an expression of love. “Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.”

Think of driving in traffic, especially when you’re running late. How awful it is when a light turns yellow, or the LRT booms come down right before us. This is when our patience gets put to the test. This is, however, a faint glimmer of the patience or long-suffering that Paul writes about. The writer of First Maccabees, William Barclay says, describes long-suffering as the means by which the Romans became masters of the world. By that he means the Roman persistence which would never make peace with an enemy even in defeat, a kind of conquering patience. It is by this same patience that someone would not get mad at another when it could be easy to do so. The Spirit of God equips us with this type of patience. It could also be a patience that has learned to endure some form of debilitating disease. “Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.”

Let’s move on to kindness—“no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Other translations use the words goodness, sometimes gentleness and even sweetness. In order to understand this fruit of the Spirit it’s also helpful to think about its opposite. So when I think about kindness and then I think about the work of the flesh that comes naturally to me, its unkindness; it’s sort of a harshness, a way of hurting other people with my words or actions, or not really caring about other people. In a way it’s really all about me. That’s the opposite. 

Now here’s the neat thing about true kindness and practicing the fruit of kindness is when you live by it, it not only blesses the other person and changes their day but it has a way of changing you. It is because when you’re there at the register where a previous customer might have annoyed the person behind the register. You see that person’s face change after you’ve said something appreciative and you walk away, how do you feel? You feel better don’t you? Like, “Hey that was a blessing to me that I had a chance to bless her. This is when you want to do it more. And that’s about how the gift of kindness works. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” The Spirit uses kindness in us to make the world a better place. 

Now we come to generosity. “Give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” This is what it’s all about when God’s Spirit brings forth generosity in us. And once more it’s helpful to see the antonym. And the antonym of generosity is depicted in a name we all know, Ebenezer Scrooge. Charles Dickens of course wrote about the human condition in his novel A Christmas Carol. It’s a story of redemption. You remember Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t start off being such a bad guy. He was actually a decent human being. It’s just that he lost his way. He began to focus on money, power, and possessions. He became this shriveled up little soul.

You may remember what it took for him to finally break free from that. It took him seeing the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future, and finally with that in theological terms, he repented. He expressed sorrow and regret and he turned his life in another direction. So it was a story of redemption.

In the end Ebenezer Scrooge became an example of generosity and patience and kindness.

Jesus says it this way. He says, “To whom much is given much is expected.” Jesus also describes the effect of generosity on our souls, because when we’re generous it changes us, like kindness, it changes who we are. Which is why Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Because we’re changed. We find the blessing in this kind of giving.

The fruit of the Spirit, directed by love, includes having patience, kindness and generosity. There is no law against such things. May God bless us daily.

1.) 1. www.benricelaw.com/twister and The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633

 

Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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