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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fruits of the Spirit

This is also coming out in the CMC newsletter this week, but I thought I would post it for those of you who do not receive the newsletter.  This also has links!

Beginning January 22, our worship services will focus on the fruits of the spirit, continuing through February and March.  The Apostle Paul lists the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 as love, joy, peace patience, kindness generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These nine attributes are signs of the Spirit’s movement.  We will take one each for nine Sundays, with the tenth Sunday looking at the whole.

We tend to look at the these fruits of the spirit in and individual sense, that is we see them as characteristics of individuals.  But I am wondering if we might try instead to look at them as characteristics of a community.  What kind of community might be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?  The Apostle Paul in his writings calls churches, communities of faith, to this vision, which contrasts markedly to what social life was like for most people in urban environments in the first century Roman Empire.

I have three books on my mind as I prepare for this series.  I am just beginning to read Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty,and the Greco-Roman World, by Bruce Longenecker, which draws heavily on a reading of Galatians.  Some years ago I read In Search of Paul: HowJesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, which contrasts a Christian vision for social and cultural life with the vision of imperial Rome.  And on my radar screen is Invisible Romans, by Robert Knapp, which looks at the lives of the ordinary Romans (the 99 percent), whose story the great chroniclers of the day do not tell.

The fruits of the spirit are not saccharin sweet traits meant to foster a life of tranquility, but radically counter cultural characteristics meant to shape communities that stand in marked contrast to the imperial society around them, a non-violent Christian revolution.  I pray that this worship series will revive our sense of the revolutionary nature of the fruits of the spirit as we try to live this revolutionary story in our own time.