When Grace sent me an email with the request to consider contributing devotions for Lutheran Women 2023, one the first things I did before giving my answer was to open my Bible and read the theme for the year – “Fruits of the Spirit”. And there they were in all their loveliness in Galatians chapter 5: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As I slowly read the verse, allowing my eyes to rest on each of them, I must admit I became a little despondent as I realised just how my personality didn’t quite fit the description.
I must confess I am not always the most loveable person, nor the most joyous. And as I moved along the list, things didn’t seem to improve! Although I love peace, there seems to be a constant war that lingers in my heart that manifests itself through my lack of kindness, my not-so-good goodness, my ever-failing faithfulness, my not-so-gentle gentleness, all these inadequacies uncovering my lack of self-control. How many times have I shown the opposite of all the above, not weekly, but daily, hourly, minute by minute?
Arggg! How can I possibly write about the fruits of the Spirit when I am constantly confronted by my own shortcomings? Frustrated, I read the verse again, this time the word “fruit” jumped off the page. I was so focussed on each kind of fruit that I forgot about the tree or true vine (John 15) from where they grow – reminding me yet again that it is not about me! The fruit is not something I can conjure up out of my own sinful heart, in fact, anything that comes out of my heart will always fall short. St Paul’s words resonated with me where he seems to anguish over his hopeless condition; For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise. Romans 7:19 NKJV. Paul went on to say Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? We all know how he feels!
In complete contrast, the fruit of the Spirit gives us a glimpse of the attributes of our heavenly Father. He changes us from within using simple means through his holy Word, in the water at our Baptism, in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Changing the hearts of man, bestowing on us his grace, his peace, his forgiveness.
If we produce any fruit, it is solely the act of God working through us to produce fruit that is ripe and ready for the harvest.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:5 NKJV
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your living Word, for your holy Sacraments and your saving grace toward us. Create in us hearts that are willing to serve you with joy showing your amazing love to others. Bless us with the fruits of your Spirit and always keep us firmly attached to Jesus, the true vine, without whom we can do nothing. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.