Saturday, July 14, 2012


When I was in high school, every summer our youth group would go on a mission trip to a place called The Campbell Farm. The farm was located in Central Washington, near the Yakima Indian Reservation. We would work at a homeless shelter - sorting clothes, processing food donated by local farmers, or feeding meals. And we would also work at people's homes - painting, clearing brush, building wheelchair ramps. Honestly, I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to give high school students paintbrushes and power tools. One of my favorite (read: ridiculously monotonous) jobs was to match shoes from a pile of maybe 500 hundred.

For me, the work was important, the community we developed was incredibly meaningful, and what we learned in our worship times foundational. But what I was really into were the silly antics we would develop throughout the week. One small, but memorable antic, was that every time we would see one of those giant road signs that say FRUIT, we would all yell "FRUIT!" as loud and long as we could (to our delight and to the chagrin of the chaperones). I'm not sure why we thought this was so funny. Or why I still think it is.

I've been thinking a lot about fruit this week, because I'm going to be collabroating on a series about the Fruits of the Spirit (The 9) at Vancouver Friends Church. A few brief observations about the Fruits of the Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control):

The 5 about The 9 

5. Aren't they great! When I am confronted with the questions what is the Kingdom of God? I keep coming back to The 9. It brings into focus God values and what it means to embody the Way of Christ. They are somewhat easy to memorize, and they are universally appreciated.

4. They have a context. Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, some 2,000 or so years ago about how they should be Christians... in community... in the world. This church was beginning to be convinced (Paul would say deceived) that individuals would first need to become Jewish (via adult circumcision) before they could become Christians. And that they would need to follow Jewish laws and customs to ensure they lived holy lives. Now Paul is in a bit of a tough spot. The way one lives matters. But for Paul Jesus and the Spirit were more important than outward signs. So he preached grace and faith... and fruit.

3. Fruit is delicious and nutritious. Vegetables of the Spirit doesn't quiet have that same ring does it. We all know they are good for us... but they don't have that same taste bud satisfying juiciness, do they? The fruits of the Spirit provide both spiritual nourishment and soul-satisfying flavor. Who doesn't want more love, joy, peace... you get the idea. They are work, but they are also play!

2. The image of fruit is natural. The scriptures are filled with images about the Spirit that are natural (fruit, fire, water, wind, breath). There is something mysterious and indescribable about the Spirit that requires the authors of scripture to use varying and almost contradictory images to describe it. Is it fire, or is it water? Yes. Jesus, the master teacher uses a lot of natural (one might say organic) images. He says that He is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in Him we will produce much fruit.

1. Fruits need roots. Paul, in Ephesians, when talking about the church, prays that they will be rooted in God's love. The fruit of the Spirit, including love, are rooted in God's love. And God is love. I imagine some fruit producing plant (personified) focusing on producing fruit. "C'mon fruit! Grow already!" It knows that this is it's purpose. He's certainly heard the farmer talking enough about it. So it strains and flexes and grunts and then... Pop! A little fruit. It keeps this up for days. Pop! Pop! But in so doing, he/she/it forgets about the vine and the roots and it begins to become unhealthy. Its leaves start to dry up and it stops producing altogether. Its neighbor, on the other hand, lets its roots sink deep into the soil, to find the nourishment it needs. At first this looks like selfishness to the fruit-obsessed plant, but now it can see how naturally and restfully and healthily it's neighbor is producing fruit. Fruit (as Jesus says) that will last!

When I look back on my brief mission to The Campbell Farm, I'm not sure what fruit has really lasted. I'm guessing the paint on the houses began to crack and peal shortly after we applied it haphazardly on top of the old coat of paint. I'm sure that we didn't cure the hunger of those we fed. But my hunch is that those things that we did, which were rooted in God's love, and that were done with, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control... those things lasted in some profound, mysterious way among our little group and those we served. If nothing else, I'm sure that when many of us pass those giant road signs, we yell FRUUUUUUUUUIT! That will last.