LIVING BY THE SPIRIT
A sermon by Rev. Richard Miller, Minister of Trinity United Church, Montreal, QC. Galatians 5:1, 13-25. June 27, 2004.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
- Galatians 5:25 (RSV)
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Or our pew Bibles render it as “let us also be guided by the Sprit.” What does it mean to live by the Spirit? I think in a number of ways, that is what the Companions in Christ program is all about. It is about learning how to open ourselves to God and to put our trust in God so that we live and walk and are guided by God’s Spirit. This, of course, is easy enough to say, but more difficult to do. How can we do this? How can we learn to live and walk and be guided by God’s Spirit?
This morning we have heard some of our church members describe their experience in the Companions in Christ spiritual formation program as one of the ways this can happen. And what they have written is also included in the bulletin insert. Earlier in the service, we also learned that those who are part of a Companions in Christ group are given one exercise to complete each day. About midway through the program there is an exercise based on today’s reading from Galatians. Let me read it to you.
Read Galatians 5:13-26. Meditate on the fruit of the Spirit listed and on evidence of the fruit in your life in community. What do you see? What fruit would others say they see in you?
Identify an area of your life where you feel you are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit. What would it mean for you to let yourself be guided by the Spirit who already lives in you? Spend some time in prayer asking the Spirit to help you with these challenges. Jot down any insights that may come. (Companions in Christ Participant’s Book, p. 205)
This came from a chapter with the title “Bearing the Fruit of the Vine.” We had already discussed the image of a vine for being part of the church – of how we are all interconnected, for example. But a vine does not exist for its own sake, but to bear fruit – usually grapes in our experience. And so we were challenged to identify the fruit of our own lives – or what St. Paul describes in this reading as the “fruit of the Spirit” which he says are thinks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” And he says that people who live by the Spirit are also guided by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit.
The Jesuit priest Fr. Thomas Green has written a little guide to prayer with the title Opening to God. In it he notes the danger that we can end up with a shallow “hearts and flowers” spirituality that is based only on feeling good and not on a true knowledge of and love for God. It is not enough just to feel good in our spiritual life, for when we truly know and love God, then we allow God to guide us and work through us, and our lives bear the kinds of fruit that I have just read from this passage.
Dear friends, let us do just that. Let us live by God’s Spirit and walk in God’s Spirit as we bear the fruit that St. Paul has listed. Somewhere else we read, “Let your light so shine that others may see your good works and give glory to God.” Walking in the Spirit – bearing the fruit of the Spirit – enables that to happen. Glory to God. Amen.