Proper 9 Year C 7/3/2022 Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-8; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Last week, we heard the text from St. Paul to the Galatians on the fruit of the Spirit.
Can you name all 9 fruit of the Spirit?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Generosity was our focus last week.
Today we have another fruit of the Spirit…
The other fruit that starts with the letter “g” – gentleness.
Gentleness shows up in our reading today too.
It’s in the first verse of our Galatians reading:
My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.
Gentleness means the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered. It is softness of action.
When I think of gentleness, I think of a kind teacher comforting a young one who fell and scraped their knee.
Putting their arm on their back…
Saying soothing words…
Sweet, sensitive, caring… That’s gentleness.
Gentleness is probably not the first fruit of the Spirit we think of… We all want to be more loving…
In fact, in my years of pastoral counsel and prayer requests…
I don’t recall anyone ever coming to me and inquiring about how they can be gentler.
We just don’t think much of the fruit of gentleness. Probably because we don’t think of it much culturally. Gentleness is not something our culture typically celebrates.
In the sports culture that I grew up in, you never wanted a reputation of being gentle or soft.
Gentle is not something we look for necessarily in leaders. We usually aren’t attracted to gentleness.
When we think of great leaders we think of intelligence, the ability to succeed, make decisions, the will to get the job done.
Can you imagine the press or the masses of people regarding a president with high esteem not because of power, looks, or leadership…
But because they are so gentle?
Dr. John Frame recently tweeted:
I think gentleness is one of those Christian virtues that falls through the cracks when we’re evaluating ourselves and others.
Ironically, the concept of gentleness seems itself to be very gentle.
It doesn’t shout out at us;
it almost seems to hide within those long lists of virtues.
Gentleness is the quality that God shows us.
The greatest example of gentleness is found in God.
In Romans (5.8), St. Paul writes:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Usually when someone hurts us…
When we consider people our enemy…
Our response is often to hurt them back…
We want to make sure our voice is heard…
Make sure they know how wrong they are…
Demand they fix their problems.
And it seems so often we lack the fruit of gentleness in those moments.
When God comes to us…
He comes as a gentle shepherd…
I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10.11)
When God comes to us…
He comes as a gentle mother.
The prophet Isaiah declares the character of God saying:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you! (49.15)
And later the same prophet Isaiah writes:
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you… (66.13)
God is gentle with us…
Just like a mother taking caring of her children.
This is our calling as well.
To be gentle.
One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in one’s life is gentleness.
This fruit should also be evident in the church.
Far too often, the church projects judgmentalism…
The people of God can be harsh, manipulative, and argumentative.
It doesn’t take one long on social media to see so much of the church arguing with other members of the church.
Conversations are good.
Disagreements are actually good things to have… They help fine tune theology and worship.
But if its not in a spirit of gentleness, it quickly turns people away.
Again Dr. John Frame wirtes:
The church is not an academic debating society, not a place where one seeks by whatever means to prove himself right and to prove the other guy wrong. It is, above all, a place where we care for one another as nursing mothers care for their babies.
He goes on:
If that atmosphere of caring, protecting, nurturing, and loving is ever replaced by an adversarial climate, the very life of the church is in danger.
It is not that we can’t have good conversation… Even lively dialogue…
But we must let the Spirit of God quicken our hearts with love and grace…
With the Spirit’s attitude of gentleness.
A humility that seeks to serve… not to be served.
A meekness that seeks not to be heard… but to listen. A gentleness that truly portrays the character of God.
As St. Paul wrote in Philippians (4.5):
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Why not something else?
Why not your hope be evident to all? Why not your faith be evident to all?
But here, the scripture says your gentleness be evident to all. It is something to think about…
The quality of gentleness.
The more that happens in this world…
The more difficulty,
the more disputes,
the more divided our nation becomes politically, The more socially we struggle…
The more we need the fruit of gentleness.
Not beating people up…
Telling them the Lord is near, so you better turn or burn.
No, instead put on gentleness.
As the Hebrew Proverb says:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (15.1)
Methodist pastor Richard Dunagin tells a story about winning four goldfish at their kid’s school carnival.
He went out on a Saturday morning to find an aquarium.
The first few he priced ranged from $50 to $100.
But then he spotted it… right in the aisle:
a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter… for a mere five dollars.
He bought it right away…
Of course, it was nasty…
it was dirty,
but the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze.
Those four new fish looked great in their new home… at least for the first day.
By Sunday one had died.
Too bad, but three remained.
Monday morning revealed a second casualty,
and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up.
He called in an expert, a member of their church who had a beautiful 30- gallon tank full of lively fish.
It didn’t take him long to discover the problem:
The tank had been washed with soap, which is an absolute no-no.
Pastor Dunagin’s efforts had destroyed the very lives he was trying to protect.
Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives… To clean up the lives of others…
we unfortunately use killer soaps
we use condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper…
We think we’re doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear.
And we hurt the very ones we believe need help.
What we need is gentleness.
And we, as the people of God, need it all the more in the current climate that we have in our nation.
It is needed in our church…
It is needed in our families…
It is needed in our nation and in this world.
As God has shown the way of the truth in gentleness to us…
may we live in this world with the abundance of God’s gentleness to others.
May we in our prayers ask the Holy Spirit to give us the fruit of
Generosity and Gentleness…
Two fruit of the Spirit that begin with the letter “g” Imagine if the church was known in this world… for those two fruit of the Spirit.
May it be.