“Fruits of the Spirit”
Romans 8:22-27, May 23rd, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these ancient words from the writing taken from the Letter to the Church in Rome, chapter eight, verses twenty-two thru twenty-seven, composed by the Apostle Paul around the year 56 AD.”
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
“Having heard these words with our ears let us now open our hearts to fully grasp their meaning in the context of our lives today.”
“Fruits of the Spirit”
As we begin our discussion this morning, on this Pentecost Sunday, seeking to gleen some of the fruits of the Spirit that are spoken of within the New Testament lessons which are available to us today, we need to clarify a few essentials before we get started. First off, let us begin by acknowledging that Pentecost is on the seventh Sunday after Easter. It marks and celebrates the commencement of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples and followers of Christ. Some writers mark this occasion on a particular date and time, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter two, starting at verse one: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” /Acts 2:1-4/ In the gospel according to John chapter twenty starting at verse nineteen we are told that: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” /20:19-22/ The point we ought to grasp is simple. Simply allow this message of hope – to rest in our hearts and minds: “The Spirit of the Living God is with us.” All we need do, to begin is accept, willingly accept this gift which is freely offered to all who are willing to follow – thereby allowing the ‘Living Spirit’ to lead us and empower us to do the will of God!
Let us consider a current update of what is happening in our own neighborhood. A contractor has begun the process of building a home directly behind where my wife, Lois and I live; just as the contractor is doing on the land, which we, the church, sold a few years back, right next door, on the adjoining ten acres of land to our church property. The project, which is progressing finally, here in Sebastian, where they cleared the land back in October, and began preparations, preparations for a foundation to be set, yet, for over four months nothing further had been done, until this past Monday morning. A building permit was posted on the land and a contractor came by and knocked down the ‘foot’ high weeds that had overtaken the top section of the area where a foundation had clearly been planned. On Tuesday, a team of four workers began digging and placing the first pieces of lumber, after digging a perimeter trench where they placed large planks and posts which they then positioned within the trench. The outline is the beginning stages of the mapped foundation, which is now in place. Building something new takes planning and it takes hard work; it takes deliberate and dedicated effort to get the early stages set into motion. Lois and I are watching the process take place near our home, as are our neighbors here at our church location are watching this new housing development finally begin to take shape! Currently four homes have begun to take their planned forms and many more have building permits posted. What is crucial for us to note, as we consider how new homes are built within an existing community, is see clearly the developer’s vision, as the stages of the process are put into play… in a well-defined and orderly mapped out blueprint. New homes need to be planned. A location was first chosen, land cleared and prepared for building. Permits secured, with funding to begin the work. The work for these homes, which in a few more months will take shape as they are prepared for new families who will eventually become our neighbors. This is the hope, this is the plan. This is the vision realized! A families hoped for dream home, becomes a joyful reality!
The essence of our lesson this morning moves us away from the ‘tongues of fire’ and the drama surrounding the sudden appearance of the Holy Spirit’s power within the ranks of the followers, the disciples and certainly the Apostles appointed and chosen by the man Jesus. Now we are moved to begin seriously considering the foundation of what receiving, having available to us the Living Spirit of God, we are moved to seriously consider what this truly means! Today, we mark the occasion from the letter to the Romans, beginning at chapter eight, verses twenty-two with words of affirmation of all that the Spirit does for us as followers of Jesus. At the center of our writing the word Hope appears four times, causing us to pause long enough to recognize that our lesson points us to a moment of hope; and hopefully this moment will expand into a new process and a new purpose in our forward moving journey! The Apostle Paul speaks out to the young church in Rome, a struggling church, much like a great many of us small churches who have been so disrupted by the occurrences of the times we now live in. Paul exhorts his listens, which include us in our present time, to be uplifted and filled with new hope, as we have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, Paul goes further to remind us and that young group of followers back in Rome that the Spirit is not easily seen, if at all. Thus, we must constantly rely on our faith to carry us forward during difficult and trying times. “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” / Romans 8:25/ In contemporary time we are often reminded of the simply yet poignant words coming from characters such as “Huckleberry Finn.” “Faith is believing in something you know just ain’t true!”
The Apostle Paul likes to get his audiences attention – as he wrote his letters. You see, Paul knew how hard it is to get a ‘reader’ to hear the inflection of his voice, just as you now hear mine as I speak out loud to you today! Therefore, he often said the obvious over and over and in a loud and precise written manner! He was also seeking to instill hope for those who were listening and not to discourage them. Yes, he needed to tell them the truth. Through Christ we are given the Holy Spirit. “The good news!” Yet, we need to fight through our unbelief and accept, to invite, to actively invite the Spirit of God into our lives, even as we strive to work closely and in concert with God’s will for us – as we move forward in our lives! This is very important!
Most of us who are actively living into our life realities may, at times, be unclear or unmindful of why it is imperative to seek God’s guidance! History is where we find the answer to that ancient question. A question that keeps popping up in human existence all too often! We humans often lose our way and forget Jesus taught us, exalted, and exhorted us, thereby urging us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves! If you honestly look to history, you can easily see that when humankind bestows hatred, instills fear, and focuses on their own wants and desires, rather than the needs of others, it is then that things go bad! Paul was striving to help those early followers seek out the ways of Jesus’ teachings thus the will of God, rather than rely only on human instincts!
Paul also inserted a gem for us to polish and hold up to the light. He did not choose to use flamboyant language such as that contain in chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles. Look to verse twenty-six, where Paul points out that the Spirit will help us in our weakness. The point here is for us to acknowledge and accept that we have this weakness and that it causes us troubles in our relationship, our contact with God’s presence in our day to day lives. Listen carefully. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,” / Romans 8:26/
Many of us pastors, in our mode of preaching find ourselves continually working to raise up the power of prayer. Oftentimes we forget to point out that talking with God is only truly heard when it becomes a selfless prayer! Praying to win the lottery is selfish unless you truly plan to give it to an orphanage or to the needs of others. Do not misunderstand, that is only an illustration. I do not believe, nor does any reputable Preacher, for we as a group, do not believe gambling is a proper way to serve the will of God nor is an appropriate way to serve the needs of the people of God! We talked about prayer a great deal last week. If you missed last weeks lesson, go back to our website, and reread or listen to the tape, or go to our Facebook page and view last week’s service. The main point here is to accept that you, and me, that we all could use a bit of help from The Spirit of God interceding into our thoughts – as we seek to be in communion with the will of God!
Many of us have been working on new visions, working on new plans for our future as a viable church. We have high hopes and with the help of God’s Living Spirit we shall live into those plans! Our New Beginnings Team is working on our current visions for the year we are now in. They are hopeful of accomplishing some short-term goals. Goals, which shall prayerfully and with the help of the Spirit and all of us working together, their goals, our goals – shall be fulfilled! There is a lot of hope coming from their enthusiasm and energy! We pray that new plans and new visions shall come from their efforts. We also have a new committee appointed by the Church Council, our Long-Range Planning Team! Their task is to look out to the next ‘five’ years and ‘envision’ for us how we shall continue to thrive as a faith community serving the needs of those seeking the inspiration and saving grace of Christ Jesus, as-well-as reaching out to the needs of God’s people! These plans will bring forth new visions and new hope as we come together and embrace them as the Riviera United Church of Christ! As we live into our future our prayer is: that those visions will become realized and all our hopes and dreams for the future will also be satisfied! All we need: is a willingness to follow the Holy Spirits lead, with faith.