Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fruits of the Kingdom

Reading today's daily lectionary is a challenge. The Psalm is about God rescuing someone, but in the process of doing so there is much fire & brimstone language. In Amos the prophet speaks for God who has gone to great lengths to show favoritism to Israel and yet still Israel does not turn to God. In the Epistle, 2 Peter, there is instruction about not following those who might lead us astray. And finally in the Gospel for today, the Parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 21:33-46 Jesus tells the story of a man who grows a vineyard and then travels to a foreign land while the neighbors kill all the vineyard workers and even the vineyard owner's son. In short it is not a very cheery set of readings.

And yet, toward the end of the Gospel Jesus says, "the kingdom of God will be ... given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom."

Although I'm certain if I turned around and consulted my Bible commentaries there are many wise men and women who could tell me more specifically what Jesus meant by the "fruits of the kingdom" but it made me think about Jesus' response to the question about what the greatest commandment is and his reply; loving God and loving neighbor. Jesus' words about producing the fruits of the kingdom also made me think about Paul's letter to the church at Galatia where he said, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things."

Even in the midst of some very challenging passages of scripture, Jesus' words about the kingdom of God belonging to those who produce the fruits of the kingdom seem like very applicable words in the hustle and bustle of early December. For if the fruits include loving God and loving neighbor there are many opportunities for us to pause in the midst of our many tasks and give thanks to God as well as looking out for the many people who make up our neighbor.

Likewise, with so much stress being associated with the month of December, trying to keep in mind things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control can bring a lot of growth to our preparations. Granted, adding one more list to an already burgeoning list of responsibilities might seem like a lot to ask, but when we think about the outcome achieved by producing the fruit of the kingdom, that of coming into an even fuller embrace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, perhaps the added responsibility might just be worth the effort.

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