Meditation is like walking around in circles


I am thinking this week about the events of “palm Sunday” as recorded in Matthew 21.  What stands out in my mind is the strange incident of Jesus cursing a tree.  It is strange because why would Jesus get mad at a poor little tree?

So the first circle is to think about that tree and see that it is not about a tree, but it is a symbol. It did not have fruit and for that was cursed.  So Jesus came to the center of the nation of the people of Abraham, of those called to be a great nation and a blessing to the world, and he looked there for fruit.

Circling around again, we see that there was a lot of apparent fruit at the arrival – a parade and shouts of hosanna.  Yet we know from Holy Week activities that Palm Sunday is followed in 5 days by Good Friday.  Jesus went from being a Popular Hero to Condemned and Abandoned faster than could be imagined.

There are those who come in faith and are welcomed by Jesus and there are those who are angry and reject Jesus.

Jesus circles past the temple, the place that is a living enactment of his ministry – a place for worship where one gets close to God via the priesthood and the sacrifices given there.  Jesus is proclaimed as the sacrifice and the High Priest what brings God close to us in his incarnation and us close to God by paying the ransom that was required to make peace with God.

He sees it and turns it over as a place that has missed it’s calling. There is a lot of business and there are many people. It is like one of those churches that has become adept at putting Bottoms in the pews and Bucks in the offering.  Yet, it had missed its purpose – to be a house of prayer. This overturning of the temple is another circle.

So the fig tree exists to produce fruit.  The Temple existed to produce prayer.  when they failed in their mission they were judged.

What is it then, as we come full circle, What is it that the Lord looks for in us? what is the fruit we are to produce?

Circling back in Matthew there is John’s call to repent and produce fruit in chapter 3.  Jesus twice spoke of good and bad trees that either produce good or bad fruit – chapter 7 and 12.  The parable of the sower is about how the seed and produce fruit that multiplies to up to 100 fold.

Is this fruit numerical?  we should see hundreds not a few followers?  Is the fruit spiritual – we think of the fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians. Is it as simple as faith and love, which are the two evidences of faith that Paul cites at the start of his various letters to the churches.

Like the icon on my computer which indicates a process and a search ongoing, I am circling around this question of fruit.

coffee shops and biblical study

For the past sermon series in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the best time I spent was at the neighborhood coffee shop with my printed text of Galatians five, a yellow pad and my colored pencils.  This was because

  1. I was not distracted by office buzz and clutter
  2. Coffee shops are strangely stimulating bc of the coffee and the buzz of people.
  3. Context is important, and reading the short passage in its natural habitat gives a more natural reading.

Kindness – Galatians 5:22-23




Kindness is an idea that is easy and hard at the same time.  It is easy because everyone agrees about this topic.  It is hard because it is harder to do than it is to say.

I.  Everyone likes Kindness.       Acts 10:1,21 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.

Cornelius  was a Roman soldier.     In many places soldiers like Cornelius are cruel or greedy.  They take advantage of their power and ask for bribes and favors.

But Cornelius was respected by the people.  They were Jewish and he was brought up in the religions of Rome.  Yet he knew it was right to be kind.  So when he had a need for Peter to come and visit, people who lived by him went and appealed to Peter to come. They said, “He is a righteous and god fearing man who is respected by all the Jewish people.”

This makes the point that everyone likes kindness.

II.  Jesus was kind

             Here is how Peter described Jesus ministry.  Acts 10:37–38 (ESV)  –  37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus was anointed.  We remember that the Holy Spirit came on him at his baptism.  That was when his ministry began; Jesus did all his works through the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit.

He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil.   .  Jesus healed every person who came for help.  One time it was so crowded that they made a hole in the roof and let down a man who could not walk.  One time he was so busy his family came to take him home because they thought he was going to do crazy.

God was with him.     Jesus had the power of God to heal people by touch or by words.

Some days he was busy from morning to night teaching and healing.  One time they tried to take time off for a retreat.  But the people followed him into the wilderness.  So he not only taught them, he also fed the crowd with bread and fish that he multiplied by prayer.

Do you think we should only be kind to people who are Christians?  Jesus was kind to all people.

Do you think we should only tell people words about God?  Jesus gave words, but he also prayed, touched, healed, counseled and fed the people.

III.  The problem with kindness is “Who is willing to be first.”   What I mean is, who is willing to be the first to show kindness, even when the others are unkind or greedy?

There is a solution:   God is first.  God has already shown us kindness.

Natural Gifts: The apostles taught that God gave good thing and even gave joy, so that people who look for him and fine life.  When Paul and Barnabas healed a sick man in one town, the people thought they were Gods and wanted to worship them.  They said, NO. We swerve the living God.  Then this is how they describe God – God is Kind.

Acts 14:17 (ESV)

17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

Spiritual Gifts:  With rain and good crops we can have joy when we eat and are filled.  But then we are hungry again.  He sends rains we we have water to drink, but then we get thirsty again. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, that God can give us what makes us happy forever.

God started kindness by giving the gift of Salvation in Jesus to the entire world.

God has already started.  We only continue to share the kindness of God with others. That can be cold water on a hot day.  It can be food to fill the stomach.  It can be the Gospel  to satisfy our souls.

What is more, we have the answer to the supply of kindness.  When we share what God has given to us, he replaces it.  It is like a river of water, when we give water away to drink, there is more and more and more.

Therefore, brothers and sisters,  Be kind because God is Kind.     “We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19.


Pastor Dave Carlson

Patience – sermon clip

This quality of patience become part of the wisdom we live by.  We have popular proverbs that remind us of the importance of patience:

Rome was not built in a day.

            The mighty oak was once a nut (like you.)

            Haste makes waste.


The Bible has a number of sayings that remind us to be patient.  Here are three from the book of Proverbs.

A patient man has great understanding,
but a quick-tempered man displays folly.

 Pv 14:29

   We wait.  Not because we are unable to decide or because we are afraid to act.  We wait because it is smarter.  Sometime the situation out there is clearer with time. Sometimes our own thinking gets cleare with time.  So when we wait, the offense itself is seen to be small.  Or maybe the offender changes his ways.


Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Pv. 16:32

            Soldiers have to be able to charge a hill or take a city.  But often it is wiser to wait.  President Eisenhower when against every general on his council when he decided NOT to invade China.  They thought it would be easy, he knew how hard it is to invade a continent.  One man with patience outweighed many soldiers.

A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

Pv. 19:11

            Patience has a kind of Glory – the glory of those who do not need to always be #1, but are willing to be vindicated by time.

(bonus: what does the photo have to do with the topic?)

Anti-Immediacy – aka Patience


Seeds, bread, art, transmission rebuilds, presidential campaigns, raising kids, getting to know your spouse, family dinner, sermon preparation, becoming mature, becoming a friend, grief, recovery from addiction, reading a book, memorizing a passage, helping a friend, effectively serving the poor, making beautiful music and pitching a shut out.

Some things don’t: tweeting, net surfing (unless you do a lot of it), McDonald’s, starting a fight, losing a baseball game, jumping to conclusions, judging, first impressions, saying something you’d regret, tweeting, blogging, emailing something you will regret, forgetting what you just watched on TV and deciding to stay home this Sunday.

Consider those two lists, which items are more important?  (If you don’t like our non-scientific list, make your own.)

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, PATIENCE….”   Galatians 5:22-23

Peace and a Bagel?

What does peace have to do with a bagel?

We have a local bagel place that sells the “everything bagel”.  It has all the toppings on it at once: toasted garlic, onions, sesame and poppy seeds, caraway and kosher salt.  Some days it is the best thing since….sliced bread.

Peace (shalom) in the bible is neither only about political peace (lack of war) nor is it about only personal peace (tranquility.)  we sometimes choose the A or the Z of peace, wither politics or personal well-being.

Peace is about the A to the Z and all the letters in between. It is a comprehensive state of welling being, harmony and healthy relationships: individually, inter-personally, inter-nationally, inter-culterally, within the family, within the church, within the community.  In short it is the Everything Bagel.

I take my toasted with hummus.

Peace – a Fruit of the Spirit pondered


How to define it?  Where do we find it?

When Israel was threatened by Babylonian invasion, they were tempted with their own words, suggesting that exile was just as peaceful as their own land.  It was an old version of “Peace at any price.”

Isaiah 36:15-17  English Standard Version (ESV)

15Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, “The LORD will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 16Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

To have a vine, a fig tree and a well requires a steady and secure life. It requires that one lives with neighbors who do not wish to steal their crops or shoot from the shrubbery.

We have two minimal definitions that come to mind.  Peace suggests that there is not war.  In the history of the modern world there have been very few years with no wars.  Just in the past hundred years the United States was at war in Mexico, WWI and WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, and a number of other “police actions” and “international engagements.”   If you include “Cold War” and “War on Terrorism” in the list there are very few years where we have not been at war during out lifetimes.

Peace also suggests personal calmness and well-being, inner peace and tranquility.  So we advise the individual to meditate, retreat, recreate, exercise, explore, entertain or medicate to achieve serenity.

What is the “Peace” in the fruit of the spirit.  the Greek word “eirene” was used to translate the Hebrew “shalom”.  In biblical language peace means something totally comprehensive.  Peace is “all that makes for social well-being and harmonious relationships.”

It is not only the one or the other, but both and everything else.

We have failed at both ends, and all that is in the middle.  We seem to need some help.  Galatians speaks of fruit of the Spirit (i.e. from God), and James speaks of wisdom from above that is peaceful. (James 3:13-18).

James 3:13-18 ESV

13Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Apples of Gold & Galatians 5:22

In a book length study of “The Fruits of the Spirit”, we read:

“Joy is the satisfaction that comes when we find that for which we’ve been looking.”

Now this is a good insight into the fleeting quality of Joy, which appears not to be the thing sought but the result of finding something else.  However, it is a rather gray sentence, a little bit surprising actually, as the author is a professor of theology and philosophy.

We changed it to this:

Joy arrives when we find what we need.

15 words to 8; a bit more punch, and rhetorically useful.

So dear Fresh Reader, which do you prefer? Do you have a better way to say it.