Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
In the season of Epiphany, we are exploring how we can eat, share and serve, in order to live out our mission to love and serve with all people in restoring all of creation to God’s loving embrace.
Fruit is an amazing creation. Fruit actually carries the seeds from the plants in an appealing way so that something (humans included) will take the seed, eat the stuff around it, and pass the seed on. If you look at an apple for example, we as creatures love the fruit itself. The apples look appealing with their many colors and shapes. The flesh is super sweet, crunchy and makes us want more. Inside all of that goodness is the core that carries the seed of the apple tree. When we throw away the core we technically plant the next apple tree. We may toss it into another yard and we give the apple tree wings. Or perhaps a bird digests the seeds and flies off to disperse the seed elsewhere.
The apple also comes from the tree. The tree manufactures its fruit to go elsewhere but still resemble the tree. In our lesson from John, our writer doesn’t use an apple tree but a fruit vine which is similar when looking at fruit. First of all, there is a relationship between vine, branches and fruit. Secondly the fruit is produced to go elsewhere and to thrive. The vine produces something that is appealing, sweet, and reaches out to other locations in order to disperse and thrive.
Fruit comes up over and over again in the bible. Fruit appears as a theme in the Hebrew Scriptures when talking about what God will do and how to celebrate. Fruit comes up in the Gospels as part of what God is doing and how we relate to God. In fact, much of Jesus’ ministry is centered on talking about fruit…of the vine, in beverage form, and off of trees (i.e. figs). In that light, it seems like a perfectly great platform to talk about what fruit is in relation to church as we go out into the world when we are ready to serve. What is the fruit of the church? How does it relate back to the church?
As we talk more and more it seems to make more sense that fruit or the produce of our work may be where we relate and move outside of the church’s walls. Where we serve may be where we are carrying our delicious, appealing, nutritious, and feeding fruit. Our product may just be where we produce service to others in the community. This becomes a visible fruit, coming out of grace, love, hope, faith, and hospitality.
Quotes for the Week
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” –Saint Basil
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” – Will Rogers
“The entire fruit is already present in the seed.” –Tertullian
“God made so many different kinds of people. Why would he allow only one way to serve him?” – Martin Buber
“I think if the church did what they were supposed to do we wouldn’t have anyone sleeping on the streets.” –Michael W. Smith
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” — Martin Luther
“My favorite fruit is grapes. Because with grapes, you always get another chance. ‘Cause, you know, if you have a crappy apple or a peach, you’re stuck with that crappy piece of fruit. But if you have a crappy grape, no problem – just move on to the next. ‘Grapes: The Fruit of Hope.’” –Demetri Martin
Galatians 5:22-26 (Message)
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
John 15:1-8 (NRSV)
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes* to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed* by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become* my disciples.
Questions for the Week
What is the fruit of the church?
What does fruit look like to you?
What would it mean to serve in the world? In our community?