Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Knowing Fruit

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 -- Week of Proper 21

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html (go to St. Paul's Home Page www.stpaulsfay.org and click "Morning Reflection podcast")


Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 986)
Psalms 101, 109:1-4 (5-19) 20-30 (morning) 119:121-144 (evening)
2 Kings 18:9-25
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Matthew 7:13-21

Throughout the sermon that we are reading from Matthew's Gospel, Jesus has insisted that there be a coherence among our motives and our actions and our appearance. He warns of wolves in sheep's clothing and the wide, easy road to destruction.

How do you know the difference between the false prophets and people who are true? "You will know them by their fruits." Jesus takes a simple metaphor from nature: good plants bear good fruits; bad plants bear bad fruits.

Paul helps expand this teaching by listing the fruit of the Spirit -- "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." Whenever we see these fruits we can be inclined to trust their source.

These fruits transcend some of the boundaries of definition and identity that we sometimes use to judge. Jesus was critical of those who represented themselves as observant Jews but failed to practice these mercies. He was very hospitable to others who were outside the boundaries of practicing Judaism yet manifested graceful qualities. There is an instructive encounter with a Roman soldier who asks Jesus' healing help with such profound respect that he becomes for Jesus an illustration of faith. Jesus told the story of a heretic Samaritan whose compassion is a model of goodness.

"You will know them by their fruits." So, it is obvious that there are true prophets who come from other places. When we look at the fruit of the spirit of the Buddhist Dalai Lama and the Hindu Mahatma Gahndi and the Moslem Jalal ad-Din Rumi we see the qualities of a true prophet.

Paul also expands on the teaching about bad fruit. He lists the works of the flesh as "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." Sounds a bit like the entire entertainment industry. Politics too.

It gets complicated when we see both kinds of fruits and the same tree, however. Much of the appeal of prime-time soaps like "Gray's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" or sit-coms like "Seinfeld" and "Friends" is the combination of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit. The characters on these shows display plenty of jealousy, anger, quarrels, drunkenness, carousing and the like. But they also show touching evidence of love, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and so forth.

The either-or nature of the metaphors of gate and road and tree is both helpful and limited. Most people I know are striving for the narrow gate, the hard road and the good fruits but often find themselves detouring in the other direction. Maybe that's where the language of repentance is helpful. The word "repent" means "turn around."

Which direction are we traveling as we seek for happiness and meaning? The good road is the road of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In that path is our true happiness and meaning. The road to disaster is the road of fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. Whenever we find ourselves on that other road, it's time to turn around and walk the opposite direction. Or in the word of our Baptismal Covenant: "Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?"

Lowell

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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St
.
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

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