Slow reading: You will know them by their fruits

Many will say “Lord, Lord”: and as the last week in politics demonstrated, as we head towards an election this clamour will become ever louder. But followers of Jesus shouldn’t be taken in by it. Instead, we are instructed to look at the effects of people’s words and actions and weigh up whether or not they are truly doing the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus tells us what this will is: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” By this rule, those whose words and actions marginalize, humiliate, manipulate, diminish, suppress, silence or harm others are not speaking or acting in God’s name, whatever they may claim.

On the other hand, those whose words and actions bring about more love, peace, gentleness, kindness and joy in the world are clearly close to God’s heart. Whether or not they claim this identity, the good fruit that they bear is witness. This week, then, I invite you to meditate upon Jesus’ teaching, and perhaps use it as a catalyst to write a story about a time in your own life when you were nurtured by the fruit of the spirit or saw it in somebody else.

1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to you today. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.

Jesus said: In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets … Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” (Matthew 7:12, 15-21)

3. REFLECT: Allow a word, phrase or single image to speak to you. What do you notice? What emotions do you feel? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.

4. RELATE: Now wonder: What does this text remind you of in Scripture, the news, or your own life? Where do you see people clamouring “Lord, Lord” but bearing bad fruit, ie having the effect of diminishing or hurting others? Where do you see people bearing good fruit? Where have you experienced good fruit in your own life?

5. RESPOND: Do you have any sense of an invitation, comfort or challenge? Pray about this, and tell God about anything which is emerging. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you the next step.

6. REST: When you feel ‘done’, rest awhile. Savour the Word and God’s loving presence. Close with a gesture of thanks to God: perhaps a simple bow. As you prepare to leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, let it guide you. Or if nothing in particular arises, remember this:

  • Every good tree bears good fruit …

If your reflection led you to remember a person or experience redolent with fruit of the spirit, why not write about it? Our Lent Book this year is all about celebrating this fruit, that is, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We’re seeking contributions of 400-800 words, but shorter or a little bit longer is okay, too. Email your piece to me by this coming Sunday 20 February, and I’ll collate the pieces into a booklet to distribute the following Sunday 27 February. For more information on the Lent Book and this year’s topic, read this.

Shalom,
Alison

Emailed to Sanctuary 16 February 2022 © Sanctuary, 2022. Photo by Katie Azi on Unsplash.

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