3 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself… 16 Live by the Spirit;…22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:3, 14-16, 22-23
Happy New Year! Several years ago I gave up doing News Year’s resolutions (that I seldom kept) and began a practice of choosing to focus on a particular fruit of the Spirit for the New Year. The “fruit” of the Spirit are those characteristics that Christians who are filled with God’s presence of the Holy Spirit are expected to exhibit as they live out their faith in their day to day life.
The first year I choose to hurry up and get patience out of the way. Never, and I mean never, pray for patience if you want a year that goes exactly how you want it to go. Patience is only learned through experiencing resistance to having your own way. I am only half kidding about praying for patience. Patience is God’s gift to helping us appreciate community and slowing us down in order to make thoughtful choices but it can be challenging learning to be a patient person.
Over the years I have prayed for love, generosity, peace and for the last two years I have been working on kindness. I worked on kindness for two years because I did not get it down the first year. It was easy to be kind to those people I liked. A little trickier for people I found difficult to be around and almost impossible for those who were cruel in their behavior towards me or others. I have been changed and shaped into a different person as I have been praying with intentional emphasis on one of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit per year. This is the amazing thing about God. God always, at any time and at any age, gives us the opportunity to become more and more whole.
If you would like to try choosing a fruit of the Spirit to intentionally to work on for 2018 this is how I go about choosing. I read Galatians 5 and then I copy vs. 22 and put the print out of that verse where I will see it several times a day. I ask God to show me what quality would be good for me to work on for the year. Over the next couple of weeks I let the fruit/attribute choose me by seeing which one stands out as I look over verse 22. There is nothing special about the way I choose, it is just the way I have done it. If you just decide to try and work on the first one in the sentence that would work as well. I have enjoyed doing this each year.
I pray that 2018 will be a good year for each of us to grow closer to God, to get to know one another better and that as a congregation we will grow in the grace and mission God intends for us. Pastor Maggie