Love 2

Mark 14:18-24

Over the holidays we saw some friends we had not seen in quite some time. I suggested that we get together that afternoon and spend time together, but the idea turned into a dinner invitation. (Don't let Roger fool you... everyone knows that pastors are always on the prowl for a free meal! Peggy)

We had a great time sharing that meal together, and the conversation that followed was wonderful. The meal was a gift we shared together, a time of shared affection, a time of closeness.

What is the “bomb” Jesus drops on this gathering? Who will betray Jesus? Is a name given here?

Immediately following this revelation, what does Jesus do? What does the bread represent? What does the wine represent?

I have frequently commented that meals together, in my opinion, are a tremendous expression of love. It is a time when those involved are physically near to one another and usually emotionally near to one another – a time of openness and sharing. Jesus has gathered with his followers to celebrate the Passover Feast and in the middle of the celebration he declares that one of these beloved followers will betray him. No name is given in Mark, but the disciples know it is the person who dips his food in the same bowl as Jesus.

Then, immediately after this announcement, Jesus breaks bread and pours out wine for those with him. He is reminding them that his sacrifice on the cross is for them. His blood poured out is an act of forgiveness. And the one who will betray him is part of this sharing, this sacrifice and forgiveness.

The love of Jesus was an all-consuming love, a giving love, an unselfish love that provided for every need of the person receiving it. The entirety of the gathering and sharing of the Last Supper was an expression of love from Jesus.

He loved his followers so much he wanted that time of intimacy and closeness with them. He loved them so much he was willing to have his body broken, his blood poured out, so they may receive eternal life. He loved them so much he shared the bread and wine, symbolically inviting them to grow deeper in their faith, to make him a very part of who they were.

And the one who most would consider Jesus’ worst enemy was included in this time of love and forgiveness. Jesus has set the example for us. We need to love as he loved, a love that is all-encompassing and sacrificial.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show sacrificial love to someone else?

Love 1

Galatians 5:22-26

Several years ago my mother had two apple trees in her side yard. Unable to take care of them on her own, I was often asked to come spray them with insecticide and to tend the trees with pruning and raking. It did not take long to realize that in order to get a good harvest of apples, you had to put a lot of work in the care of the tree.

We begin this year with a series of messages on the fruit of the Spirit, based on today’s passage. What are the nine qualities of the fruit of the Spirit? What do those who belong to Christ do? What should believers, those who live by the Spirit, do? What should they not do?

Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia is a letter that could probably apply to most churches today. At the beginning of the letter (Galatians 1:6-9) Paul addresses the fact that these believers are beginning to stray from their faith, following preaching and teaching which is, no doubt, easier to accept and live out.

But like the apple tree, these believers need to tend their spirituality. Fruit is not easily grown nor does it mature over night. Fruit requires attention and time to grow to maturity, to ripen, to become worthwhile.

So it is with faith. The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of our faith. We can have faith the moment we believe. In that moment of conversion (Wesley called it Justifying Grace) our sins are swept away and we are given faith – a relationship with God. Now we must tend our faith, grow it, strengthen it, deepen it.

In Advent we looked at love, joy and peace. What is different here? In Advent you receive love, joy and peace. Now we will be talking about something that is part of you, something you live – not something you receive.

Others have also pointed out that it is not the “fruits” (plural) of the Spirit, but the “fruit” (singular) of the Spirit. These nine qualities are not a smorgasbord to choose from, but are all parts of a single whole. You cannot choose to live out love, joy and peace, but ignore gentleness and self-control.

When we live by the Spirit we put to death – crucify – the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21a) and keep in step with the Spirit. As we keep in step with the Spirit, our faith produces a fruit which has as its parts love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The first evidence of a fruitful Spirit is the ability to love. The word used in the Greek is agape – unconditional love, not physical or sexual, but sacrificial and caring love. Perhaps the hardest to do, it is the most prominent, the first mentioned.

If we are unable to love others unselfishly, how can we possibly show any evidence of walking with the Spirit? If we are to be believers, children of God, we need to adopt the attitude of Christ Jesus and truly love others with a generous, pure love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Of the nine qualities of the fruit of the Spirit, which do you feel you already exhibit?