Happy St. Alban’s Day

Fr. Devin Rodgers

This past Thursday, my friend and co-chaplain for the week at
Procter summer camp planned formation for campers.

On Thursday, we planned one of my favorite camp activities, a
watermelon hunt. After hearing Paul’s letter to the Galatians this morning, you can probably figure out what lesson this was tied to…
The Fruits of the Spirit.

Each cabin was given a clue that used the fruits of the Spirit and a
Bible passage that would lead them to where their watermelon
was hidden.

For example:

“Read Acts 16. This faithful woman will help you find the next
clue.” – Lydia, the seller of purple fabric guided campers to the tie
dyed t-shirts and their hidden fruit. Another clue read, “This ‘lil guy in Luke’s Gospel was filled with Joy. He went to great heights to see Jesus. Jesus came to visit him at his home.” Of course, the campers read about Zaccheaus, and they found their watermelon hidden in the tree outside of their cabin.

The story of Jesus calling James and John to set down their nets
and fish for people led the campers to the fishing pond.

After a brief period of searching each cabin, the children found their hidden melon and brought it back to the chapel to be blessed and served
up as a snack. By the end of the game, the campers knew all 9 fruits of the spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.

Where do you find these fruits in your own life? In our church?
I promise there are no watermelons hidden in the church today,
but as a camper so eloquently told me, “If we follow joy, peace,
patience, etc., we will be sure to find and discover God.
The fruits of the spirit serve as a guidepost for our
spiritual journey.

If we follow the teachings of Christ and surround ourselves with
siblings in Christ who also practice these characteristics, but most
of all, if practice them ourselves, we are sure to journey closer and
closer to God. This is why the earliest Christians didn’t refer to themselves as Christians, but as “Followers of the Way.”

Christianity, when put into practice, is about following. Following ensures that our faith is a journey towards holiness. Following ensures we have a living faith. Throughout our lives, as both individuals and the church, this journey doesn’t end; it continues to grow and change depending on the needs of the world. Followers of the way cannot get too settled with the way things are or resort to being “God’s frozen chosen.”

Richard Rohr, mystic and theologian states this eloquently in
describing the Church.

“Jesus says follow me. But instead of following Jesus, we spent
most of our energy worshipping Jesus, but then arguing about the
form of worship, when He never said “worship me” to begin with.
He said “follow me”. That is an entirely different agenda. Rohr
also said, “Worship of Jesus is rather harmless and risk free;
actually following Jesus changes everything”.

Richard Rohr, Mystic and Theologian


Worshipping Jesus is important, but worshipping Jesus helps us
sharpens our sense of where Jesus desires us to actually follow
him and be formed in his image.

Rohr goes on to say that both postures before God are
completely orthodox. I would add that the two go hand in hand
and refine one another. However, in a world that continues to discredit Christianity as maintaining the status quo, or worse, settling into silent
complacency as people are harmed, THE CHURCH CAN NOT
AFFORD TO BE A CHURCH THAT MERELY WORSHIPS
WITHOUT FOLLOWING.

Jesus was always on the go and ministered to people regardless
of who they were and where he found them. In fact, the entirety of today’s Gospel passage occurs on a journey.

There are two major scenes in this passage, and we might think of
them as “lessons learned on the road.”

The first describes Jesus and his followers traveling through
Samaria. Samaritans and Judeans were enemies. Here’s a little background on this rivalry to help paint a vivid picture. Like so many of our modern rivalries, it was based on racism and war.

During the period of two kingdoms (ten tribes in the North and two
in the South), the Northern Kingdom chose to worship–not in
Jerusalem, but in Dan and Bethel. After the Assyrians conquered
the Northern Kingdom, the people began to intermarry with their
conquerors, a law expressly forbidden in Torah. Because of this,
for Jews, Samaritans were viewed as a lesser race of people.
About 150 years before the story in Luke takes place, Jewish
forces destroyed the Samaritan’s place of worship. If you want to
be all-around terrible followers of God, stripping people of their
rights, relegating them to a lesser status and destroying their
means of spiritual life, this is the way to do it.

It’s understandable why the Samaritans were not warm and
welcoming as Jesus and his disciples traveled through on the way
to Jerusalem. James and John, feeling zealous in their religious
traditions and culture ask Jesus, “Can’t we just destroy these inhospitable heathens?” Jesus rebukes them and continues to lead them forward.

What we perceive as the concrete, steadfast rules of our faith are
not the way of Jesus if they don’t exhibit compassion, love for the
other, kindness, gentleness, and so on.

It goes without saying, asking God to rain fire and brimstone down
on other people does little to exhibit self-control, kindness, love or
following Christ.

The second lesson the road is perhaps one of the most difficult for us to
grasp because it entails looking at the most precious
things in our lives and letting them go for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells a group to “follow,” but they give him excuses that
most reasonable people would consider being legitimate reasons
to delay.

One wants to bury his father. Another wants to say goodbye to his
family.

“No can do! Let the dead bury the dead and once you put your
hand on the plow, there’s no turning back!”

At first, we might hear this and think to ourselves, “Wow! Really
Jesus? That isn’t very loving.” Yet we have to remember first,
Jesus is describing what being a follower is like. We also have to
remember where Jesus is heading…Jerusalem. In Jerusalem,
he is going to continue to teach about the revealation of God’s
kingdom through stories and parables. He will also reveal the
kingdom in its entirety on the cross.

We also might take this to mean that all of our relationships
and actions must orient us to the love made tangible and
visible on the cross.

For us, our faith is either entirely about the cross…or nothing
at all. There can be no halfway. All roads, directions, and signs from
God–even fruits of the Spirit, point to a cross that looks like
death, yet brings nothing but life.

The dead in faith cannot travel this road because it is the way
of life. One cannot look back because the journey to the cross is
before us…not behind us.

We certainly saw this in our patron saint’s example.

It is also appropriate that today is the day we are revealing
our strategic plan to the whole congregation. This plan was
devised and discerned by members of our parish. With
God’s help and the entire congregation’s participation, we
can keep our eyes forward and discover how we might
cultivate the fruits of the Spirit.

Being a church that follows is to be a church that is alive and
fruitful.

This community considers the gifts and abilities of all its members
and discerns how God might be able to use us all despite age, in
accordance with our abilities, social position, etc. in order to bear
fruit so that we and others might be nourished.

Today is a day that we recommit ourselves to the mission
that God has set before us. Often times when strategic
plans are rolled out, they are viewed as a means to “grow.”
We must view this plan as a means to grow in love,
hospitality, peace, and kindness towards one another in our
parish and certainly in the world that needs this nourishment
SO MUCH!

Our best days are ahead of us. Keep your eyes forward always
oriented to the cross. In this way, you will bear much fruit.

Amen