-John Henry Newman
Welcome to the third monthly devotional of the Wesleyan Order of St. Francis. I hope to find this place to be a space of reflection, where you can commune with God, with me, and with everyone else who is reading and participating in this devotion. I hope you have been using these devotionals, and if not, go back and check them out. While each month’s devotion is related to the season we are in and the themes of the blogs, they still present a wonderful way to focus your mind and heart on God.
If you have any questions or comments about the devotional, or would like to help in the preparation for future devotionals, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “devotional” in the subject line. Feel free to comment on the end to this page about how this devotional has affected your walk with God, with any inspiration that has come to you in this time, or anything else that you would like to share.
Let us first open with The Sevenfold Prayer adapted from the one found in the Book of Common Prayer:
Deliver us, Lord, from the way of sin and death.
Open our hearts to your grace and truth.
Fill us with your holy and life-giving Spirit.
Keep us in the faith and communion of your holy Church.
Teach us to love others in the power of the Spirit.
Send us into the world in witness to your love.
Bring us to the fullness of your peace and glory.
As we have committed this time and this space to our Loving God, let us turn to the Scriptures to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those that wrote the scriptures, and in our lives today:
Galatians 5:16-18, 23-26 NRSV:
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
When I read this passage, one thing that really jumps out to me is Paul’s choice of of the word “fruit.” He could have used the term “results” or “evidence of the Spirit,” but Paul chose to use a botanical term of “fruits.” If you have ever worked on a farm, had a garden, or even a house plant, using the language of plants brings out several unique images of what it means to be transformed by the Spirit. This metaphor, like all metaphors, is imperfect, but it does enlighten our understanding through its usage.
The first thing that comes to my mind when looking at this metaphor, is the idea of time. Fruit forms slowly. Even when looking at the fastest of growing plants, one cannot notice the active growth. It is only when we look away and time passes that we see the growth and transformation. Christians often talk about transformation through Christ as an instantaneous event; I was one way before and I am this way now. That is not the case, and if it were, Paul would have have said there are fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit takes time to work in our lives, we are continually transforming. And like fruit, we grow faster during some seasons than others. The important thing is to keep the transformation growing, no matter the speed.
The second thing that is implied by Paul’s use of the metaphor “fruits of the Spirit” is that Christian transformation is dependent on God. This is for both personal transformation and societal transformation. For the most part, plants do not produce fruit on their own. They need to be pollinated from an external source. Most plants cannot self-pollinate, they need something to help out, whether it is a bee or a bat, a bird or even the wind, something outside of the plant is required for pollination. Much like these plants, we cannot produce fruit, whether in ourselves or in society, without something external, and the external factor is God. Many people are frustrated when they work and work toward change, but nothing comes from it. What they don’t take into account, is that without God, there is no change. Without God there are no fruits.
Another thing that comes from this metaphor, is that fruits are not just for themselves. The purpose of fruit is to spread the seed, but in doing so it helps feed animals and humans. Our fruits of the Spirit are to help spread the Good News, and for the benefit of others. We will be better with our gifts, but that is more of a side effect. We are transforming ourselves and the world for the betterment of all of God’s creation.
As you reflect throughout this month, try meditating on Romans 12:2 (CEB)
“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.”
As you go forward this month and this Lenten season, take time to meditate on the importance of transformation. We are called to not just transform ourselves, but also work to transforming the world. As we transform the places around us, we bring them closer to the Kin-dom of God here on Earth.
Here are some scripture verses that may help you focus your meditations:
- Ezekiel 18:31
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Mark 4:22-24
- Titus 3:5
- John 3:3-7
- Ezekiel 36:26
- Luke 17:20-21
- Matthew 4:17
- Ephesians 4:22-24
Ephesians 4:22-24“change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.”
As we close this study, please join me in the Dag Hammerskjöld’s Prayer for a New Heart:
Thou who art over us,
Thou who art one of us,
Thou who art:
Give me a pure heart, that I may see thee;
a humble heart, that I may hear thee;
a heart of love, that I may serve thee;
a heart of faith, that I may abide in thee. Amen.