Scripture: Galatians 5: 22-23
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
October 30, 2016
This next week is one of the most sacred weeks of the entire year for me. It is my Holy Week. This next week I will have the honor of prayerfully reading your covenants. I will reflect on your spiritual journeys, listen for ways that I can be a more effective minister for you and I will offer a blessing over each and every covenant I receive. Your covenants are a precious gift to me and to this congregation. In addition to reading your personal covenants (which is Part 1 of the Covenant), I will also be learning about the ways in which you feel called to serve in this congregation (that is, Part 2 of the Covenant).
I have been immensely blessed to serve at Redlands United Church of Christ with some of the finest leaders I have ever known. The leaders in this congregation are sharp, focused, articulate, self-aware, creative, mature, and wise. I often find myself very impressed by the elevated level of conversation and ideas that I hear in Board and committee meetings. It truly is an honor to serve as the Pastor of this congregation. I learn so much from you. But perhaps what I am most impressed by in this congregation are the fruits of the Holy Spirit which are abundant in this place. This morning we hear the apostle Paul saying that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, gentleness and self-control. Today, I would like to present each one of our Board members with a fruit that I think best represents him or her. There are many, many people who serve this congregation and our Board members are only a handful of the faithful servants in our midst – but our Board represents us, making decisions on behalf of this congregation. And so for today, I would like to honor each and everyone of them.
The first fruit of the Holy Spirit which Paul talks about is love. I have designated the tomato as the fruit of love. Not only is the tomato red, but it has four chambers. The heart has four chambers. And tomatoes are pure heart food. We generally associate the heart with love. Moreover, tomatoes are the most popular fruit in the world and so too is the fruit of love, the most popular – sought after fruit. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (Floyd Orr –President, David Darquea and Beki Hill – Church Life Area Leaders)
The second fruit of the spirit is joy. I have chosen a strawberry to represent the fruit of joy. While joy begins on the inside; it spells over to the outside. Joy radiates from the inside-out with smiles on our faces, a leap in our step, a confidence about our lives. Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than on the inside and so because of the outer joy that we see in one another, I call strawberries the fruit of joy. (Kristi Campbell and Carol Cheney – Church Growth Area Leaders)
The third fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace. I believe the banana represents the fruit of peace. The fruit of the banana is found on the inside – just like peace. Though things may get rough on the outside and though the skin is tough, softness lies within. Bananas are full of potassium and potassium keeps blood pressure at a healthy level – so too, when we live with inner peace, we may just find out blood pressure at a healthy level also. Some horticulturists suspect that the banana was the earth’s first fruit – and I imagine the world was at peace when that first banana made its appearance on planet Earth. (Barbie Fiske-Phillips, Barb Lord, Erin Beardemphl – Worship Area Leaders)
The fourth fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience. I think the avocado is the fruit of patience. Interestingly, the avocado looks like a female womb. Today’s research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week, it balances hormones and prevents certain female cancers. And how profound is this: It takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. Now that is totally fascinating to me. So, I think the avocado represents the fruit of patience because the avocado blossom needs great patience to become a ripened fruit. (Jennifer Brainerd, Keith Osajima — Educaiton and Sue Wallace — Recorder)
The fifth fruit of the Holy Spirit is kindness. The pomegranate represents kindness. Pomegranates are certainly kind to the body – they have been dubbed the “miracle fruit” because they are said to help prevent cancer and lower blood pressure. Lower blood pressure reduces the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Moreover, there is a tradition of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The pomegranate is believed to have 613 seeds, representing the 613 commandments of the Torah. As the pomegranates are eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashana, a blessing is said. “May it be Your Will, God, that our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.” Therefore, the pomegranate represents a person who is filled with kindness and good deeds. But interestingly, the seeds of the pomegranate aren’t necessarily apparent from the outside. They are clustered together on the inside between folds of the fruit’s flesh, out of view from any observer. And so, too, there are persons who strive to be full of kindness even behind the scenes. (Judith Turian – Shepherd Area Leader)
The sixth fruit of the Holy Spirit is generosity. God is so very generous that God did not just create one kind of apple – no God created 7000 different types of apples. Yes, God is extravagantly generous, especially when it comes to apples. Interestingly, apples are a member of the rose family. Apples are an excellent remedy for wrinkles, cracked skin, itching and inflammation. Eating an apple is a more reliable method of staying awake than consuming a cup of coffee. The natural sugar in an apple is more potent than the caffeine in coffee. Apples were given to teachers a century ago because teachers did not make very much money and so families generously gave apples to teachers to help supplement their income. (Dan Abushanab – Treasurer, Carole Beswick and Heather Abushanab – Steward Area Leaders)
The seventh fruit of the Holy Spirit is faithfulness. I have designated the orange as the fruit of faithfulness…but for a personal reason. I was born and raised in this city of Redlands. My faioth was nurtured at RUCC. Redlands has been known for its prolific orange groves. There are still many orange groves. As I drove to church as a child and now as an adult, I pass many orange groves and there are a number of orange trees on this property – and it is here at Redlands UCC where I have learned and witnessed God’s faithfulness. Yes, the orange of faithfulness. (Dianne Landeros and Chris Nicoloff – Wider Ministries Area Leaders)
The eighth fruit of the Holy Spirit is gentleness. I believe the peach represents gentleness. Certainly for the obvious reason that the skin of the peach is very gentle and soft, but also because the ancient Chinese considered the peach to a symbol of long life and immortality. If we want to live a long life, it is best that we respond gently to people…gentle as a peach. That means, for example, when we encounter someone with road rage it is best to just let them drive by without a response from us…that will ensure a much longer life for us. (Wendy Hunt – Minister at Large)
Finally, the ninth fruit of the Spirit is self-control. I chose the grapefruit for the spirit of self-control. Of course, there are many areas in which we are called to exhibit self-control – but the one area that we often find the most difficult to control is our eating, right? We are surrounded by fast food restaurants in the U.S. There are potato chips, fries, ice cream and cakes everywhere. Several decades ago there was a rumor that you could burn 10 pounds in 12 days by eating one-half of a grapefruit everyday. It was believed that the enzymes in grapefruit literally burned fat away. Later, food experts discovered that there was no scientific evidence of grapefruit burning fat away – but I guarantee that if you eat more grapefruit than potato chips, you will be on our way to a healthier you. Yes, the grapefruit of self-control. (Janet Greenfield — Personnel Chair)
There you go…the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I have only given the Officers and Area Leaders pieces of fruit, but the truth of the matter is that I believe everyone here has a fruit of the spirit. In fact, I feel like I am standing right in the middle of a stunningly beautiful fruit salad! May we continue to bear good fruit as we receive and dedicate our covenants for the 2017 year.
Invitation to Communion:
The grain and the grape come from God’s good earth. However, to create bread and wine, human agents are needed:
A farmer to plant wheat
A gardener to tend vines
A miller to grind wheat
A winemaker to crush grapes
A baker, a trucker, a grocer to provide the finished products of bread and cup.
This table represents the union of human and divine and so, too, do the covenants that we bring forward this day.