Third Sunday after Pentecost

The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 9th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 59 To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60 But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61 Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ. 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For freedom, Christ has set us free. In our second lesson today, Paul teaches us about the fruit of the Spirit.  I feel like I have to confess to you that I chose this lesson to preach on because it goes with the Sunday school song we picked for the hymn of the day.  

Today our worship is informal and we are using our Christian freedom to sing some songs we usually consider children’s songs.  We are sings some old songs we learned as children and some new songs that our children have just recently learned. And we are clapping along and doing some of the hand motions.  

This is fun and it’s an expression of our Christian freedom to remember that we are all God’s children. The rest of the staff can tell you how much I enjoyed the Bible School songs this week. 

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” When we first hear that, it can sound a lot like the law, can’t it? I can kind of see the finger shaking and hear that parental voice saying, “I let you off this time, but you better never do that again.”  

Paul even talks about the law, saying,  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

The reading today might sound like a whole lot of law, but there is a wonderful gospel message of grace in there.  Even though at first it sounds like here’s a list of stuff you gotta do: Love your neighbor! Then through your whole life show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control.  

That’s a long list. It can sound over-whelming.  And it can sound like the law. But, it’s not the law.  It’s a gift of pure grace.  You see, it’s not a list of stuff you have to do.  It’s not a list of attitudes you better show in order to be a Christian. I’m sure that’s the way I heard it the first time I heard about the fruits of the Spirit. I heard, “Here’s a list of things you better do if you want to be a Christian, because here’s the way Christians behave.”

I grew up in a Lutheran church, so that’s probably not the way my Sunday school teachers taught that lesson. It’s probably not the way you were taught either, but maybe you heard it that way as a child, too. And the lessons we learned as children can stick with us at a deep emotional level, even when as adults, we have learned intellectually that they were wrong. 

I think perhaps it’s part of our human condition that we hear this as condemnation.  We know that there are many ways that we don’t show love to our neighbors.  

We are not always joyful.  Stuff happens every day that causes us to feel the opposite of joy. Don’t ask me for a list, I can provide that way too easily.

And we are not always peaceful.  There are plenty of times when we have anxiety about today and tomorrow, and if I think back on it, there’s stuff that happened in the past that makes me worry about it all over again.  And I am just talking about inner peace here, but I think that Paul was also talking about peace between people and peace between nations.  

Don’t even talk to me about patience. When God was handing that out, lots of us didn’t want to wait in line, so we didn’t get much patience. Which leads to not much kindness in the world either. 

Generosity is fine as long as we make sure we have enough for ourselves first. Faithfulness is okay until something better or more interesting comes along. Gentleness seems like an undesirable trait in a world that values strength and winning at all costs. Self-control is not valued as much as sarcasm and burning remarks. 

So, it can sound like Paul listed all these fruits of the Spirit in order to condemn us for our lack of Christian behavior.  It can sound like the law, but it’s not. 

What we can all miss in this lesson is that the fruits of the Spirit are gifts.  We cannot believe in Jesus on our own.  We cannot follow Jesus on our own.  We cannot do any of these things on our own. As Luther so clearly tells us in the explanation of the third article of the creed: 

“I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.” 

It’s all grace.  It’s all a gift. We can’t do anything on our own.  But, we don’t have to do it on our own.  

So, whenever you show love to your neighbor, or see someone else do it, the Holy Spirit is with you, loving both you and your neighbor, giving you the love that you are sharing. And since you know that God loves you, you are set free to show love to your neighbor.

Whenever you feel joy - Say “Thanks be to God!  As a Christian, you can rejoice in the Lord always, because joy is the Holy Spirit’s gift of grace to you! 

Whenever, wherever there is peace, this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  When you have been able to make peace with someone who has offended you, that’s the Holy Spirit’s work.  When you have been able to offer forgiveness, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Whenever you see someone show patience with someone else, whenever you are able to wait and remember to offer grace to the people who are making you wait, this is the gift of the Holy Spirit as well.  Whenever you see kindness, or show kindness, you are seeing the work of the Holy Spirit.  

When you are generous, when you share with your neighbor, the Holy Spirit is working through you. When you are faithful, it’s not your work, it is purely a gift of the Holy Spirit to you.  

When you are gentle, the Holy Spirit is using your hands to touch someone else.  What a beautiful gift the Spirit gives us to be able to use our hands to bless our neighbors!  

Self-control is only possible through the Spirit. Without the Spirit, we are slaves to our sin.  

The fruit of the Spirit is not a list of stuff we have to do to be a Christian.  

It’s all a gift of grace.  Jesus loves us so much that he died and rose for us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always, to continually give us gifts, the fruit of the Spirit.  Amen.