Sixth Sunday of Pentecost – July 1, 2018
Galatians 5:16-26 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Long before the 1955 movie “Love is a many splendored thing”, starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, and a very popular song with that title, continuing with “…It’s the April rose that only grows in the early Spring” also emerged, God’s great act of love had been demonstrated. Yes, indeed, God’s love was demonstrated in the life of Jesus 2000 years ago, and yet, also from the very first act of creating the world. Then God sent the Holy Spirit to be among us to empower the believers in Jesus Christ. We just read about this Spirit according to Galatians 5. “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Have you noted that Paul did not use the plural? He doesn’t say fruits of the Spirit, but rather fruit of the Spirit. He has talked about the works, plural—the works of the flesh; but now he concentrates on the fruit of the Spirit. That seems to indicate that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and each fruit of the Spirit which is listed along with love is just one additional expression of love.
Here is an experience that will put it in perspective.
“Roy Smith grew up out on the plains of Kansas during hard times. His father worked in the mill—never made more than a few dollars a week. Roy Smith said it was hard for his parents to scrape up enough money for him to go to college, but he wanted to go to that little college in his hometown and somehow his parents managed to get him enrolled. Then Roy was given a part in a debate that would put him on stage. Above anything else in the world, he wanted a new pair of shoes for the big day. Somehow, out of their meager income, his parents managed to buy some new shoes for their son. Just before Roy went on stage, someone burst through the doors of the auditorium and shocked him with the news that his father had been hurt badly in an accident at the mill. Roy Smith ran down the streets of that little town into the mill, but it was too late. His father had died. They buried him the next day, a cold and windy day; and then Roy Smith went back to the mill to get his father’s tools and the coveralls that he had been wearing at the time of the accident. Someone had thoughtfully put all of them into the tool box his father had used. They had carefully folded the coveralls, and then had placed his old shoes bottom side up there in the box. When Roy Smith opened the lid of that box, the first thing he saw was his father’s shoes. Those shoes had holes in the bottom that reached from side to side. In that second, he realised that while stood in his new shoes, his father had stood on the cold steel floor of that mill in shoes that didn’t protect his feet. Roy Smith said he felt a numbness around his heart. 1)
The “numb” feelings Roy Smith sensed were the birth pangs of new life. He would never forget the love of his father. He knew that it was from that deep love that everything else flowed. That’s a faint picture of what Paul had experienced and was talking about.
He saw it clearly on the road to Damascus. He caught the vision, not of an earthly father in shoes with worn-out soles on the cold steel floor of a mill, living in sacrificial love for his children, but in the gift of the Eternal Father of the son Jesus, who hung vulnerably on a cross. He poured out love and poured out life, it was that love that reconciled Paul to God, and brought him together inside. It all centered in the unifying love of Christ. Thus, joy, peace, patience, and the other character traits Paul lists as fruit of the Spirit were simply love in another form. The other fruit grows out of that love as the bountiful harvest of the Spirit.
Paul describes joy as the first fruit that further expresses the fruit of God’s love. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” we hear according to Nehemiah 8:10. Hebrews 12:2 puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When Jeff Blatnick, the 1984 winner of the Olympics gold medal in Greco Roman wrestling, was interviewed on television, he demonstrated joy in a profound way. He was the first American to ever win it at the Olympic Games. He had been a victor over Hodgkin’s disease, a victory that is impressive as the gold medal.
On television he talked about this other victory—his victory over cancer. He was all smiles, filled with happiness, though the final verdict was not in. At that time there was still the possibility of recurrence. Many remember the television presentation of his Olympic victory. This big man, kneeling, before the whole world, millions of people watching him on TV crossing himself in prayer, tears flowing unashamedly down his face; and the joy was there. His whole being resonated the joy as he danced about unable to contain his emotion. His joy was a by-product of his obedience to the rules of the game, and his preparation through arduous discipline.
So it is with Christian joy. Joy is a byproduct of our obedience and discipline through our life in Christ.
The next fruit that the Spirit brings to us through love, is peace. Peace, is the fruit of the Spirit growing out of our acceptance of the love of Christ. The fruit of peace becomes radiant in our lives when our acceptance of God’s forgiveness is complete in every level of our being.
Alas, however, there are not many in whom acceptance of God’s forgiveness is complete at every level of being.
There are memories that lurk within us and rob us of peace. Memories that rub the conscience raw. When we are quiet, a familiar piece of music or a face we’ve not seen in a long time, floods back into our mind and heart, bringing with it the realisation of unresolved failure, or rebellion; and our peace is gone.
The Christian’s peace is a product of the certainty of God’s presence despite the circumstance. I’ve seen it as you have, and many of us have experienced it. We’ve often seen it in a person walking through the darkest valley of the shadow of death, yet radiating a confident peace.
Love, joy and peace. Next week, I hope to continue with “patience, kindness, and generosity…” May God’s Holy Spirit fill us with the fruit of love, which brings joy and peace along with it.
1.) Tales I Have Told Twice, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1964
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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