Thursday, June 14, 2012

Evidences of the Spirit

Writing to the Galatian church, Paul rattles off a list of "the works of the flesh." Some of the stereotypical things we might expect in such a list are there: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  drunkenness, and carousing. Religious folks often seem fixated on "sins" of this sort, even though they make up a minority of Paul's list. Religious folks rail much less against enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy, perhaps because we enjoy these so much.

According to Paul, when the Spirit is present and active there is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  If you have ever attended a regional or national governing body meeting in the Presbyterian Church (USA), there is a good chance you witnessed precious little of Paul's "fruits of the Spirit" but plenty of enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy. And even within congregations, factions and quarrels and distrust are all too common.

Some years ago our denomination promoted the theme, "Theology Matters." It most certainly does.  And despite those who say that it's actions that count and not theology, the fact is that bad theology leads to bad practices. However - and this is a big however - getting our theology correct will make little difference in the absence of the Spirit. And when our theological fights degenerate into enmities, strife, anger, quarrels, dissensions, and factions, what does that say about us, regardless of our theological positions?

We live in a time when there is a great deal of spiritual hunger and curiosity in our culture.  At the very same time, there is a significant drop off in participation at church congregations. Could it be that we humans come hardwired with some ability to sense divine presence? And when people see enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy in congregations, they correctly surmise that the Spirit is not active there.

What evidences of the "fruits of the Spirit" do you see in your congregation? And how might we be more open to the Spirit moving in our midst?

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