August 1st and 2nd
If you like peaches, then July and August are your months. As with most fruit trees, to have a successful crop does not come by easily. It usually takes 3-4 years from the seedling stage for a peach tree to begin producing fruit. Usually a variety of sprays are used to protect the fruit trees from being overrun by insects, birds, and a variety of diseases. Appropriate fertilizer and thinning has to take place for the peach to grow into its proper size. There is a lot that goes into making a successfully peach tree. Today’s Ephesians text speaks of various fruits of the Spirit, and while the term Spirit and fruit are not used in this text, these verses do speak of living a life under Christ filled with humility, gentleness, and patience. These are virtues which are tied directly to our calling as Christ’s very own. I came across this quote, which I think sets the tone for “fruitful walking”. This individual writes “I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves, one above the other, and the taller we grew in Christian character, the easier we could reach them. I find now that God’s gifts are on shelves, one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts.” This is important, because all of this leads to unity, of the spirit and the bond of peace. To be united to Christ, and united with each other is the call of faith, and it is that “uniting” with each other which will take our time this morning.
Before we get to the specific virtues of humility, patience and the like the apostle Paul writes, I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which have been called. He literally is in prison, under house arrest. Seemingly, not the optimum position to be in when witnessing to Christ. He then essentially says, may your life match your present status. “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. I’m sure you have seen people who have been given positions and responsibilities where you thought maybe they were not quite qualified. Yet, over time they successfully grew into the position which was given to them. I’m not sure this is the best approach, but it does closely resemble are high status. We start out on top, and then are called to live like this or shall I say grow into this status. If one confesses Christ as Lord, and has faith in Jesus, here is how earlier the book of Ephesians describes that persons high status. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 4:2). Earlier in that same book he says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3) “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). As those who have been called to this high status, we are now called and implored to live up to what is already ours.
How are we to walk? First of all with all humility and gentleness. When Luther was asked what is the first step in religion? Luther replied: ‘Humility.” What is the second? Humility,” What is the third? “Humility”. In the setting of the early church the Greeks saw humility as implying that one was weak, and such a lowly temperament had no part in a rich full life. The Hebrews, (those of the Jewish religion) often saw humility only in terms of one’s relationship to God, and didn’t connect it toward ones relationship with his or her neighbor. We, as Christ’s very own, are called to live in humility toward one another. Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. What a statement!!! We are to walk around believing that our co worker, spouse, classmate, cousin, has more value then you. The verse doesn’t say, on par with you, or almost up to you, but above you. Just a few verses latter in Philippians it gives an example of Jesus on the cross, who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Jesus didn’t just give us an example, rather he literally humbled himself under us, saw us as more value than his life. Humility does not come naturally to us, which is wh Jesus power through the Holy Spirit is so essential in making this happen. A wise doctor once said, “I have been practicing medicine for well over 30 years and I have prescribed many different drugs for the illnesses I have encountered. In the long run, I have come to the conclusion that the best medicine for what ails humanity is a patient understanding of another person’ problem.” Of course, such a simple statement is not going to go unchallenged. One listener said, “And, doctor what do you do if that doesn’t work?” Unruffled, the doctor replied, “double the dose”. Fruitful walking involves humility.
The live a life worthy of our calling, is also to live in patience toward one another, and bearing one another in love. The word for patience is really a word which means long suffering. A clearer starker term, it seems to me, then mere patience. This long suffering especially involves other people, not merely being patient with ourselves or being patient doing some sort of project. We need that too. Yet, here it is patience, even long suffering toward others. Often this is not how we live. At our previous home, we replaced our shower, and my first job was to take the old one out. While this took some time, it didn’t take a lot of skill, and when it was done we had one royal mess. It is not hard to tear people down, but the result is usually not pretty. However, putting in a new shower took time, and a subset of skills I did not have. It also meant that we were inconvienced for a time without a shower. So also in bearing with one another in love, it often is to take place at inconvenient times. However, we can do this because we start out with high status, the scriptures promise us that we will not lose ourselves in the process. The Romans had a powerful civilization 2000 years ago, that when they would battle certain territories, they endured temporary losses. For even in some loss of territory, they all knew that eventually the Roman army would get it all back. To be long suffering with one another as called people of Christ is to have the assurance that in Christ Jesus he will always give more to us than we to others, and that even if for a time the long suffering goes on a lot longer than we expected, and is a lot harder than we could have imagined, there is victory in Christ.
Why is all this important, especially as we relate to fellow believers? Somehow, and some way this is how unity is maintained. Not by demanding people match our standards, but by lowering ourselves in humility, long suffering, for the sake of unity. Remember we won’t lose ourselves in this process, because in Christ Jesus we start out as winners. Enjoy the peaches throughout the next few months, and remember that while it is not easy, you and I are also called to fruitful walking. Amen.