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“The Fruit of the Spirit”
Galatians 5:22-23


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost—June 30, 2013

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In today’s Epistle Reading from the fifth chapter of Galatians, the Apostle Paul lists vices and virtues, the weeds of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit:  “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. . .  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

In front of our house last year I planted several new rose bushes, to replace some that had died due to lack of water while we were evacuated during the flood.  All last summer one of them had lots of leaves and looked healthy, but never produced any flowers.  I found out it’s called “blind cane syndrome,” when otherwise healthy-looking roses don’t produce any flowers.

There’s nothing more disappointing for a farmer or gardener than when the seed they have planted fails to bear fruit.  In the same way, God is saddened when the seed he plants in us does not produce fruit in our lives.

Jesus once told a parable about man who planted a fig tree in his vineyard.  Year after year he waited for the tree to bear fruit, but there was none.  So, finally he said to the gardener, “I’ve been looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down!”

We all deserve that same destiny of destruction, as John the Baptist proclaimed, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

We all deserve to be cut down and thrown into the fire of hell.  For, God has planted in us the seed of his Spirit, but we succumb to the weakness of our flesh, and do not bear the pleasing fruit of the Spirit.  Instead, we bring forth in our lives the wicked weeds of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before,” Paul says, “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  “Produce fruit,” John the Baptist says, “in keeping with repentance.”

Repent of your wickedness; turn to God and believe the Gospel, the Good News that your sin is forgiven; your debt, cancelled; your guilt, washed away by the blood of Jesus.  For, he himself bore your sins in his body on the cross; you have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  God the Father is like a farmer, planting in you the seed of faith in his Son as your Savior. 

Farmers use special planters to plant their seeds in the soil, and the planters that God uses to plant the seed of faith in the soil of your heart is his holy Word, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  As the Apostle James says, “Humbly accept the Word planted in you, which is able to save your souls.”

And, like a farmer who after he has planted the seed continues to tend and nourish his crop, God the Holy Spirit continues throughout your life to tend and nourish, through the Word and Sacraments, the seed of faith planted in you.  As the pastor declares in our Liturgy following Communion, “May this true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the true faith unto life everlasting.”

With the divine seed of faith planted in your heart, and tended and nourished by God himself, you are like the tree spoken of in Psalm 1: “Planted by streams of water, it yields its fruit in season.”  But, sometimes, even fields and gardens which are yielding fruit can be infiltrated with weeds.  So it is with us.  Paul says in today’s Epistle Reading that as long as we remain in this life, our old sinful self, the flesh, is at war with the Spirit within us: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”  Like the bad weeds and the good crops competing in a field or garden, the Spirit and the flesh are constantly battling within you.

So, as long as we remain in this world, we must daily strive and struggle to live a life worthy of the Gospel, by God’s grace and power bearing fruit in every good work and striving to eradicate the weeds of wickedness from our lives.

Immerse yourself in the Word of God and the Sacraments, for they are God’s divine weedkiller and fertilizer.  Immerse yourself in the Word the Sacraments by reading and studying the Scriptures, by worship and prayer, and by receiving Christ’s body and blood to strengthen you in the true faith unto life everlasting.

 “I am the Vine, you are the branches,” Jesus says.  “If you remain in me . . . you will bear much fruit. . .  I have chosen and appointed you to go and bear fruit.”

Go and bear fruit!  As Paul says in Colossians, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. . .  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. . .  live a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work.”

When you see a field, lawn, or garden where the weeds are competing with the desired crop, remember that’s a picture of you, for in your heart the weeds of the flesh are at war with the fruit of the Spirit.  Praise God that for Christ’s sake he forgives your weeds of wickedness, and for Christ’s sake he accepts as pleasing in his sight the fruit the Spirit works in you.  And by God’s grace and power continually strive to put to death the weeds of the flesh, and instead to produce ever more in your life the fruit of the Spirit. 

As Paul concludes today’s Epistle Reading, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Or, as Jesus says, “If you remain in me . . . you will bear much fruit. . .  I have chosen and appointed you to go and bear fruit. . .  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Go and bear in your life the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Amen.

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