Bee Fruitful! #1
Oct 03, 2021
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Galatians 5:22-25
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
I’m looking forward to learning about community and fruitfulness during this year’s stewardship emphasis through what some might consider an unusual focus – honeybees – one of God’s most fascinating creations.
Unfortunately, bees often get a bad wrap when they defend their colonies by stinging a perceived invader. Often, though, it is not a honeybee that has attacked, but a wasp or a yellow jacket (which bites rather than stings) and the offending insect is called a bee. This month we are going to set aside such ill conceived prejudice to contemplate honeybees and consider what it means for us to “bee” fruitful.
So, today we begin with the stewardship theme verse from Galatians 5. It’s a brief reading and by including only verses 22-25 I could be accused of plucking them out of context. (Say it isn’t so!) It’s not that what came before those verses is not important; it is. But, I want our focus to be on the fruit the Spirit produces in us, that which is a blessing, not that which is destructive.
Still, I’ll touch on some context so that you do not question my health and well-being! Let’s go back to verse 1 of Chapter 5, which is, “For freedom, Christ has set us free;” it’s a reiteration of the theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which he insists that Christians are free from the requirements of the Jewish law. He makes it clear that the only thing which counts is faith, working through love.
However, freedom from the requirements of the law does not mean that “anything goes”; freedom has its constraints, which are based on love of self and neighbor, that is, commitment to the welfare of the community.
Paul then lists what he calls “the works of the flesh”, or acts of the sinful nature, which have a negative effect on our relationships with God and one another. I’m not going to read the list but will say that eight of them have to do with divisiveness, behaviors that are destructive to community and fruitfulness.
That brings us, then, to our theme verse; in contrast to all that destructiveness is the fruit of the Spirit which begins with love and then lists all the qualities that flow from it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is vital to remember that God has fully equipped God’s people to serve one another in love and to, as the final verse advises us to do, love our neighbor as ourselves. I will state the obvious; the acts of the sinful nature harm the Christian community, and the wider community, while the fruit of the Spirit enhances the well-being of the community.
And, unlike the gifts of the Spirit, that differ from person to person, the fruit of the Spirit are to be common to all. As commentator Scott Hoezee notes, you cannot say you are called to the fruit of kindness, but that self-control is not something you need. Each fruit implies the other eight fruit and together they make up Christ-like identity and character in us.
I’ll quote him: “Can you imagine what such a life-giving life looks like?” he asks, especially “in an age when everyone seems angry, entitled, hacked off, selfish, and filled with me-first strong-arm tactics to get their way, don’t we long for more loving people who are kind, good, peaceable? Don’t we pine to see self-control and patience and a deep-seated joy setting the tone for our interactions with each other, for our politics, for our very church communities? Many of us know people who are already good examples of this. We need to share their stories, hear their testimonies, be inspired by their examples.” (1)
I want to encourage you to do that, to share stories of those in whom the fruit of the Spirit are flourishing, creating Christ-like identity and character that enhances the well-being of the community. Tell one another, and me, about them, but do not be surprised if those examples end up in a sermon.
Remember, though, that it is not just about others; it is about us – we too can be examples of living a life-giving life. Here’s an example of how: one of the fruits of the Spirit is generosity, which we usually think of as sharing what we possess. But generosity also can refer to our interactions with others, being gracious, unselfish, noble, self-effacing.
I recently read an article titled, “Be Generous: Setting the Stage for Forgiveness and Healing,” that focused on how unresolved grievances among family members often rear their ugly heads at gatherings like weddings and funerals. (I’m sure no one here can identify with that.) In the face of that, “Be generous” is one pastor’s mantra.
I’ll quote him, “When in doubt: be generous. When angry or frustrated or irritated: be generous. When your self-interest is being attacked: be generous. When long-standing rivalries erupt: be generous. When sacrifices need to be made, when there is an opportunity for hospitality: be generous. Unexpected generosity can lead to an inclusion that enables healing and joy for years to come. Sometimes the generosity can be a small gesture with enormous consequences, while at other times it can be quite costly – emotionally, financially or both. But it is worth it.” (2)
But it is worth it – I think that is true of all generosity, including giving of our time, abilities, and money because it puts the focus on serving God and other. We can be generous and produce the other fruit of the Spirit in a variety of ways and, in doing so, positively impact lives.
So … be like honeybees, who have a monumental impact on our planet. Speaking of which, did you know that recent studies indicate that honeybees are the single most important pollinator in natural ecosystems? Within the United States, honeybees are linked to the production of more than 90 commercially grown crops. Without them, our daily mealtime would look much different and cost a lot more. (3) They literally make the production of fruit, of food, possible.
That little insect reminds us that when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, we too can BEE FRUITFUL. AMEN
(1) “Sermon Commentary: Galatians 5:1, 13-25” by Scott Hoezee, June 26, 2016, www.cepreaching.org
(2) “Be Generous: Setting the Stage for Forgiveness and Healing” by Gregory Jones, Oct. 2, 2007, The Christian Century, www.christiancentury.org
(3) Our Love of Bees by Jaret C. Daniels, 2019 Adventure Publications, pg. 9