Fruits of the Spirit
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh
with its passions and desires.
25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
New Revised Standard Version Bible,
copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
We have been social distancing for longer than most of us expected, and as we look to the future, we can see that it will not end soon enough. Even when the restrictions on gathering and going out are lifted, we will still find ourselves in a situation that is markedly different from what we knew before the Coronavirus pandemic struck. People keep talking about the “new normal,” but no one can tell us what that will look like. It can be frustrating. We can grow irritable, even angry, as we long to go back to old patterns and ways of doing things.
In a call with leaders of faith communities, Val Arkoosh, one of the leaders in Montgomery County, told us that even when we get to the “green” phase – or the most open of all the tiers that Governor Wolf has laid out for opening up the State of Pennsylvania – it will not seem very “green” to us in our churches. Things are different, and the next several months, or years, will be quite different from anything we have experienced in the past.
In the midst of all the changes we are facing, I have been thinking about how we might respond as Christians. One of the ways that we can respond is with lament. Lamentation is a neglected kind of prayer and response to the challenges that life, and the world, give us. There are many psalms of lament (scholars tell us that there are 42 Psalms of lament in the book of Psalms!). Lamentation in the scripture often moves from crying out, to complaint, to a response of trust and thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness and goodness, in spite of our situation. A good place to start in the Psalms to reflect on how the Psalmist laments is with Psalm 13, 22, 42, 43, 44, 91, 120, or 141. There are many more, too. If you spend time reflecting on a few of these Psalms, I encourage you to use them as a way to pray – to take these words and make them your own words to God.
As you pray, though, I also encourage you to ask God to be at work in you. One of the things that I have been thinking about during this time is this: How will God use this season of lament and disruption to teach me, and how will God use this time to enable me to live as a more faithful follower of Jesus?
One of the passages that I have been coming back to over and over again during the past few weeks is the one at the top of this letter, Galatians 5:22-25, one of Paul’s listings of the Fruit of the Spirit. What fruits of the Spirit will God cultivate in me, in you, and in us in this time? Which manifestations of God’s goodness do you long to know and live more deeply than you have before, and how might God use this time to cultivate them in you?
As I look through this list of the Fruits of the Spirit, the one that I have been reflecting on is patience. Like many people, I would not characterize myself as patient. I want answers, and I want them now. I want to know what to expect, and when to expect it. In this coronavirus crisis, I want to know when it will end and how we can go back to “normal” life!
Even as I wrote this, it struck me that every sentence started with “I”, and focused on what I want. Perhaps one of the things that God is teaching me is that impatience is actually a form of self-centeredness. It is about getting what I want when I want it. All of the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 are outwardly focused, on the Lord and on others. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All of these shift our focus from ourselves to the Lord and other people. Cultivating, and allowing God to create in us, patience and all the other gifts of the Spirit, happens when we learn to pay attention to the voice of the Lord and to the needs of the people around us.
We live in a time when we are acutely aware that there are many things we can’t change. The future is uncertain. In reality, the idea that we can know and change the future has always been a myth. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, let alone the coming year and beyond. The break in our patterns, the shattering of expectations and hopes for the future can be frightening, infuriating, and lead us to be impatient. Especially when we focus on ourselves. So let us turn our eyes away from ourselves, and toward the Lord and others. And when we shift our focus, let us trust that we will know God’s presence, God’s power, and that God will bring the gifts of His Spirit into full bloom in us
P.S. I would like to share a prayer with you from an old prayer book that I have used for years to aid in daily prayer. It is called, Prayers Ancient and Modern, and it was published in England in 1897. Today’s prayer is from Christina Rosetti (1830-1894), an English poet who wrote many devotional and children’s poems, and many moving prayers, too. The language in the prayer is quite archaic, but it is moving nonetheless.
O Lord, help us by prayer to hold Thee fast, and by love to cleave steadfastly unto Thee, our ever-present Aid. We entreat Thee, when Thy Providences are dark to our eyes strengthen our faith; and whatever portion Thou allotest to us, give us grace to say, It is enough – Amen.