Reflection on the Kingdom – Growing the fruit
Every good tree bears good fruit. Matthew 7.17
By their fruit you shall know them. Matthew 7. 20
This is such a good time of year for soft fruit and this year the strawberries have been doing especially well. Two years ago I was given 10 strawberry plants. I planted them and watered them and they grew well that first year. Although strawberries are not expected to fruit in the first year, these did. But as soon as the fruits were about to ripen, they disappeared overnight. We think it was the squirrels who use our garden as their playground. I decided that, as this would always be a loosing battle, I would give the plants to a friend with a squirrel free garden. The plants have cropped well both last year and this.
Jesus was of course right. A good tree will give good fruit and these strawberries were doing their best. But in addition to being a good plant with good soil, sunlight and water, the fruit has to be allowed to mature and not be eaten by squirrels.
In March at the beginning of the lockdown we could see the fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5.22-23) Going through them one by one, there is no doubt that in March there was love for everyone caught up in this difficult situation, love for family, friends and strangers. Love was the antidote to fear as Jesus said it would be, but still many have been anxious. Joy was not so obvious, for it is not just necessarily shown outwardly but is an inner sense of happiness that arises knowing that we can trust God. Peace, as we know, is not the absence of war but, but a situation where there is friendship and harmony in society. Those who have protested against racial injustice have reminded us that there cannot be true peace while there is injustice so this is always a work in progress. Patience with one another, kindness and generosity towards each other have been seen in many different places and situations. Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control have all been essential to help us through these challenging times. Of course it has not all been without difficulty. All of us will have had our struggles and know others who have had great difficulties. We are aware that the toll on some relationships has led to a doubling of referrals to Domestic Abuse agencies and that referrals for fostering up 44%.
As we emerge from the lockdown and look around we are facing new challenges. There has been a rise in hate speech, a very understandable desire to go out and enjoy life, at times at the expense of neighbours and neighbourhoods. The fruits of the spirit are being nibbled away by those things in St. Pauls other list in Galatians 5, the desires of the flesh. We do not often read these aloud in church these days. I am not sure why for we certainly need to be aware of them and remember the power they have to pull us away from following Jesus. They are, St. Paul says, obvious: formication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like that. These are the squirrels that steal the unripe spiritual fruit. If we guard against them the fruit will ripen. It is a challenge to get rid of these spiritual squirrels. It is another a challenge to live in this world whilst living differently from the way of the world. But this is what Jesus is calling us to do.
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ the Lord
Thus, says the Lord, will the world know my friends.
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ the Lord.
Author: Kevin Mayhew
Copyright: © 1976, Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
Repeat the verse using Love, Hope, Faith, and Joy.
(Sadly the longer words like Gentleness do not fit in but you can use as many as you like)
If you can remember the tune, I invite you to sing or hum the hymn. If not, you can listen to it being played on an organ on youtube – https://youtu.be/wQ4htydEVoc .
I find it helpful to repeat the words over and over again.