Bear Fruit

In John’s Gospel, it comes from the lips of Jesus at dinner with his disciples during in his final hours.  “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”  It comes as part of his final instructions; Jesus is imparting his most important lesson at a critical hour, and his word is “bear fruit.”

In Matthew’s Gospel, where we will find ourselves for the duration of Year A, the same admonition comes near the beginning.  This time, it isn’t Jesus who is offering this important lesson, but rather his cousin, John the Baptist.  The NRSV translates it prett close to the Greek, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance,” but I’m finding myself partial to the New Living Translation because it parallels nicely with the Johannine Last Supper, “Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God.”

At Saint Paul’s we often ask the question, “if we closed our doors today, would anybody notice?”  Other times, people are asked about their personal lives, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be evidence to convict you?”  Both are kind of cheesy ways of raising awareness of an issue that was at the heart of the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus: Are you bearing fruit?

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Does your life look any different than the lives of those for whom their god is their belly? Is the call to repentance, literally to change direction, evident in your life?  Or, in a country where it is quite easy to be a Christian and where the Church is rather intimately tied into the culture of the empire, is your life simply about the pursuit of selfish goals and desires?

A tree bears fruit.  It is simply what it does.  However, it can only do so in the right conditions.  Bearing fruit requires fertilization, the right amount of rain, proper sunlight, and the occasional pruning.  The same goes for the life of faith.  Are you studying the Scriptures?  Are you taking time for prayer?  Have you learned to listen for God’s voice?  Is God asking you to repent, to give something up, or to take something on?  Are you bearing fruit worthy of repentance?

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Let’s stop all this stupid talk

I have a confession to make.  My eldest child, FBC, loves Spongebob Squarepants.  She gets it honest, her mother and I were known to watch it well into our twenties.  To say it is a show that she shouldn’t be watching is probably an understatement, but she’s a PK and we don’t want her to be a victim of her circumstances, so we fudge some.  There are rules to watching Spongebob however.  We tend to be selective about which episodes get chosen from the DVR library, and that standing rule in our house is if you say the word stupid, you can’t watch Spongebob.  FBC knows the rule so well that she’ll correct anyone and everyone she hears saying the forbidden word.  “Uh Oh, so-and-so can’t watch Spongebob,” has been heard on multiple occasions.

After three days of trying to figure out just who is stupid in the ongoing brew-ha-ha between Jesus and the Chief Priests in Matthew 21, three days of not being allowed to watch Spongebob (thankfully), it is probably time to move on to something just a bit deeper; something more theologically astute; something like fruit.

The 21st chapter of Matthew is ripe with fruit imagery (pardon the pun).  We have the famous story of Jesus cursing the fig tree.  There’s the Parable of the Two Sons called to go to work in the vineyard.  This Sunday, we hear and the Parable of the Wicked Tenants and Jesus’ declaration that the Kingdom belongs to those who “a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”  According to the folks at Sermon Brainwave, Matthew is fond of the fruit metaphor.  He’s not arguing works righteousness, but that the sign and symbol of life in the Kingdom is a life that bears fruit. Those who claim to be disciples of Jesus show their devotion by feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, loosing the bonds of oppression, clothing the naked, and caring for the marginalized (Mt 25.31ff).

The world today is ripe (there I go again) with opportunities to bear the fruit of the kingdom.  How will you be fruitful today?