When I am working on a sermon the concepts of the text roll around in my head as I go throughout my day. When I ride my bike, walk to meet someone, shovel snow, whatever. Most of what comes to mind goes nowhere, some ends up in the sermon and some ideas keep floating around in my head until I write them down. This is one of those ideas. It’s from preparing to preach on Covenant Community originally and again with Philippians 1:27-30.
In Galatians 5:22–23 we learn what the Fruit of the Spirit is. It says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
That verse always makes me think of a fruit tree. An orange tree standing by a road with full of fruit covering every branch. Just by looking at it we can see that the tree is healthy and everyone who passes by benefits from this healthy tree. The fruit is a blessing.
How true is that for all those aspects of fruit in Galatians 5? Don’t you enjoy the presence of people who are loving? Who are full of joy? Who bring peace into your life? Those who bring kindness in expressions and in words. A good friend, a faithful friend who is gentle with your feelings. Don’t you prefer those with self-control compared to those who are out of control with you?
Those are aspects of something being true in our lives. Those are the result of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
For most of my life that image of a single tree standing by a road side has encouraged me to want to grow myself, to learn to love God more myself, to be planted in the Word of God by myself. I thought if I could grow up to be a healthy tree then I might stand tall as a blessing to all who pass me on the road of life.
As I learned in God’s Word about unity, about our dwelling like one body in covenant community this image of the tree seemed suddenly like too little, like I had focused so much on how I might personally bless others I had failed to see something greater. I forget who originally said it, but sometimes good is the enemy of great. This is one of those cases.
What is better than a healthy fruit tree along the road side?
Two healthy fruit trees.
Even better than that would be an orchard full of fruit trees. That’s the Church. The people of God working together.
The image of you ministering alone is one fruit tree in a field that is a benefit to some. This would be “striving side by self for the faith of the gospel” in the words of Philippians 1:27.
But that’s not what Philippians 1:27 says. It says, “Striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” In the image of the trees that is an orchard and that’s a blessing to many. How can you better partner with those around you for the furthering of the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of self?