Fruit of the Spirit - Love

    08.11.23 | by Jennifer Parks-Snyder

    June 11th Message: Fruit of the Spirit: Love by Pastor Jenn Scripture Lesson: Galatians 5:14-26
    We begin a new sermon series looking at the fruit of the Spirit. When Jesus ascended after his resurrection he said to his disciples in Acts 1: 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Just as Jesus was at work in their lives and in this world to show us the will and way of God, now the Holy Spirit will be at work to empower us to share the ways of Christ, the ways God hopes for us to live and share with others.
    And so you heard the list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things For the next two months we will be looking at each of these fruits, to learn what they mean, and how God gives them to us through the Holy Spirit to live not only as a witness of this faith, but how the kingdom of God can be known here on earth as it is in heaven.
    Here’s a bit of background to this text. Paul writes to the church of Galatia, which today is known as Turkey, and Paul writes to them because he has heard of their misunderstanding regarding the gospel of Christ. It appears the Galatians believed in order to follow Christ, one must first become Jewish and follow the ceremonies of the Mosaic law. But Paul corrects this thinking because to require these things denies the heart of the gospel, which is we are saved by faith, and not by keeping the “works of the law” (2:16). Rather, with this gospel, Christians are to live in the guidance and power of the Spirit, which we hear in our lesson today.
    To be guided by the Spirit is not led by earthly ways, that is self-absorbed ways that contradict God’s ways. You heard the list earlier, but I want to share that lesson from the Biblical version of the Message, which sometimes makes things clearer. Paul writes, 19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. Paul’s point? Everything that is negative in this world, everything that gets in the way of following Jesus, following God, does not help us in life, only hinders the blessings of the life God hopes for us.
    That’s why God’s Spirit is at work nurturing, growing, revealing in and through us, ways that bring about a more positive and enriching life. So positive that others will see its fruit in our lives.
    And notice the list of those ways begins with love. It is after all the greatest commandment confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 22:37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4) 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (as revealed in the 10 commandments) Love is the way of God, the way of Christ, and it is fed to us by the Holy Spirit.
    So how do you know if the fruit of love by the Spirit is at work in and through you? I want to offer 2 suggestions today. The first is, to understand what love is. We are not talking about the love of a food, or love that book. We are talking about God’s love, which is perfect love. That is the love that the Spirit works within us. And to know that love we turn to another passage written by the Apostle Paul to the church of Corinth.
    He wrote: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Cor. 13:4-8 According to Paul, that is the love of God, the love of Christ, the love the Spirit nourishes within us, so that we may bear fruit that is patient and kind, it’s not rude or irritable, and it certainly does not rejoice in wrong doing. Rather it bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. When we can love like that, look at another with the love of God, claim them with such love, that’s when you know the fruit of love is at work within you.
    I have seen such love recently in our faith community. From celebrating the love of the recently deceased Nancy Zimmerman and Glenna Steinruck that they had for their families; to seeing the love of Brooke and Gavin Hellman, one of our own, as they got married; to the amazing support and nurture you have given to
    the graduates. That is the love of the Holy Spirit. It is a love that believes, hopes and endures all things. A love that never ends.
    The second way to know that the fruit of love is at work within you is when you consider how wide is your circle. What I mean by that is, we all have these circles that tend to define us and those around us. The inner circle are those you are most intimate with, be it the family you reside with, your partner, your spouse, and then beyond that circle is the next group of friends and family, then acquaintances, then those you just met.
    Now if you would list people in those circles, who do they include and not include? For instance, does your family circle include the black sheep? Does your friend circle include people who may not look nor speak like you? This circle is going to fluctuate depending upon what is going on in your life, and where you are, but when the Holy Spirit is at work leading us to love, then those circles should be widened in order to assist and affirm others.
    Jesus certainly did that, and gave lessons encouraging us to do the same. Teaching about the good Samaritan when asked to define who is the neighbor we are to love. It is anyone in need. Or showing us how he extended his own circle to a Phoenician Syrian woman at a well who wanted and needed a love that would quench her thirst. And if you recall it is by such widening of our love groups, people will know we are his. John 13:35 Jesus tells us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    So, How wide is your circle? And is the fruit of love leading you to expand or even just explore that circle more?
    There’s a great story in Acts chapter 10 where the Apostle Peter learns to expand the circle of faith. You see after the resurrection, the question remained did one have to become Jewish first in order to be Christian? The Apostle Paul said no, but Peter said yes. But in text, Peter has a dream where God tells him to eat the food that Jews are not supposed to eat. Peter’s response: 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Peter wakes up from the dream and receives an invitation to go to the house of a centurion by the name of Cornelius. He believed in God, but was not Jewish. While at his home, Cornelius shares with Peter “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.
    What did Peter’s circle like before this event? And what did it look like after?
    Is there someone outside your circle that you need to trust God with? Not someone who could physically or emotionally harm you, but someone you feel God pulling you to make a connection with? It could be that if you widen that circle to include them, to see and meet them, it may lead to a fuller understanding of God and God’s love for you and for others.
    Today we are going to end with a special prayer for our youth and their leaders who are attempting to widen their circle of mercy and love. We have sixteen youth and leaders who are going to NYC to cook, serve, and interact with the city’s homeless. When asked what they wanted to do this summer, this was what they wanted. So I am going to close us out with a prayer for them, and for ourselves, that the fruit of God’s love may be revealed in Jesus, through us.
    Prayer: Lord, what a blessing it is to come together in this community of faith. We come from all walks of life, from different ages and stages, and are welcomed in your loving name. Today we bring before you the youth and leaders of our congregation who offer themselves to be instruments of your merciful love. Watch over them, protect and guide them. Give them the assurance that what they do in your name is blessed, and show them that your love heals, strengthens, and transforms. May the Spirit be upon them, and us, so that your inward love guides and empowers us through the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray… Our Father, who art in….