Welcome, everyone. Welcome to Abide. This is a time where we follow Jesus in what he advises we do in Matthew 6:6 where it says: “When you pray, go into your room and close the door, and pray in secret to a God that is unseen, and you will be rewarded.” And so, this is a spiritual practice. It's a spiritual discipline, and so we are practicing spending time with God on our own, but also in our little community here. And so find your space. Find that door that you can close, or you can pull away and be quiet.
I often think of these times of prayer as a sit-down meal with Jesus. You know, most of our lives, we eat fast, we eat fast food. We order it, we get it, we consume it. We can do that pretty quickly, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. But when you go out to dinner, sometimes you have to make a reservation. You have to make a plan. You have to carve out time in your schedule. And this is what we're doing, we're having a sit-down meal with Jesus. And that's a different kind of meal, that's a meal where you get comfortable in a seat and enjoy the atmosphere together. You also order food and wait for it to come and sometimes it can be boring, sometimes you're just wishing the food would get there. And so, this is what this kind of prayer is. But I know that a sit-down meal can feel so healthy and hearty and warm, and it can really fill you in different ways than a fast food kind of experience.
So we're going to kind of use that image of being at the table with Jesus for a longer, mingling meal. We'll have different foods to chew on, these words to chew on. Different things to discuss with Jesus at the table, different gazes we might have upon Jesus and him upon us, and we're opening up this space and [we're] carving out this time for this relationship. This relationship, which is the most important thing in our lives, and yet it so easily gets pushed to the side. And so, thank you for coming and making this an important practice for you, and as Matthew 6:6 writes “May we be rewarded by how this food nourishes us” and how this nourishing practice can then affect the community around us for the glory of the Lord.
So as we get settled into our table, our table for two, let's take a nice, steady breath just to become more present in this space. And exhale.
And maybe we were in a rush to get here, and we're just still buzzing off of what we just did an hour ago. And so we're going to settle into this space and sort of let all that's gone on before we pressed play on the podcast, we're just gonna let that settle. So we're going to take another deep breath in and allow that to settle down.
And maybe too, as we sit at this table, we think, well I only have this much time because I've got this appointment after this and so we're going to take another deep breath and we're going to let that go. You know what we're going to do after we spend time with Jesus. So we're going to just allow ourselves to let that go too. So deep breath in. And out. We want our posture and our presence to be right here.
And today for our gratitude practice, as we're sitting at this cozy booth, I imagine, with Jesus, with some beautiful music in the background. We want to look at Jesus and just thank him. And just have hearts of gratitude as we begin this meal with him. And I've been thinking, as I've been moving into the fall and I have a pretty beautiful garden that I'm now putting everything to rest. And I've been able to stroll around and just appreciate all that grew around me during the spring and the summer and the late summer. And so I'm wondering if you can join me? As we think back to the summer and what trees and flowers and bushes and vegetables and fruit bearing trees were you able to see in your daily walk? And some of you may be gardeners and love flowers or love vegetables and getting your hands in the earth and watching things grow. And some of us just have a normal route we walk in and get to watch a certain plot of land take shape, burst in color. And so, I want you to just remember all that the summer and the late summer blooms and growth and beauty that only God and his hand of life upon his creation could have. And so spend some time just talking to Jesus about all that you saw, all that you smelled, all the textures and the colours and, yeah, just spend a little time in gratitude.
I know for me, I'm talking to Jesus about, in my garden for the first time, I planted dahlias, and I don't know if you've ever seen a dahlia but it's one of the most majestic flowers. It can be quite small, like the size of a dime, or it could be as big as a dinner plate. And the color, the form and they bloom quite late, all the way into last week. I just can't believe it. I'm in awe. I'm in awe. As we sit here in gratitude, we, we remember being together in our last Abide prayer time, we were in Galatians 4. And I'm reminded of those beautiful phrases. There's no Jew or Greek, or male or female. And that God doesn't show preference or have favourites. And so when we sit at this table, we feel so welcomed and so chosen for. Because that is the reality. That's the truth. No matter how you come to the sit-down meal today, the reality is you're chosen for.
And we were also reminded in, Galatians 3 and 4, how we're invited to use this very intimate language with God, Abba, Father. And he calls us heirs of all that he has given to us. And so this is a very rich experience and very rich words that have been communicated to us and who we are. And so we move into Galatians 5 with those realities on the table already.
And we're going to begin, today, reading Galatians 5:13-26. And some of the thoughts that I have around this passage come from the Gathering bible study that happened just a week ago in the Tyndale Commons and Dr. Jen Gilbertson shared about this passage, and then we as a community were able to talk and pray over these words and so some of the things I'm bringing forward today are from that beautiful time. So if you, if you haven't been able to join us, please do, every Thursday at 11:15 in the Tyndale Commons where we're studying Paul's letters.
So let's just settle our hearts to receive the word of the Lord here. It's almost as if the waiter has brought out something for us to partake, and this is, this is the first course. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. Rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say live by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the spirit and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want. But if you're led by the spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious. Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and alike. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
This is the bread of life, the word. And let's just take a minute to digest it into our, our minds and our hearts and our bodies.
Allow me to read verses 13-15 again. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature. Rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself. And if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge.” You know, I think about this image of colouring on a colouring page where everything's in the lines. And there are certain borders and rules and colour, colour by number. You must colour this and it must be like this. And you know, that's nice, but after you do so many colouring pages, sometimes you want to have the freedom to choose another colour or another shape. And so God is giving, giving us a freedom to say ‘Colour freely.’ Use paint, use many different ways to live. And so we have this beautiful freedom in God. And yet, how do we use the freedom? Is our freedom used to bring hurt to ourselves or to our community? Or is it a freedom that is creatively expressed? To make this space, this place better?
I think of my dog Yoda, and I love to take him out on a walk, and it's the best if I can take the leash off and let him run free. Half the time he can do really well and not get into trouble, but the other half of the time he finds stinky things to roll in or to eat and then we're in a mess. And so we too have a choice of how to use our freedom. And to think about this: How are you using your free time? How are you using, maybe some extra funds or money? How are you using your creative ways to enhance the life, the life of yourself or of others? So spend some time just talking to Jesus at the table about this truth of being free. And allowing this freedom to do good, to love, rather than to do harm and to hurt.
Verses 16 to 21: “So I say, live by the spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the spirit, and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They're in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy, drunkenness and orgies alike. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom.”
We read here that these natures living by the spirit and living by our sinful nature, they're in conflict with each other. There's friction. I wonder if you feel that within your own self, using that freedom to make a good choice or not such a good choice. And this isn't just within ourselves, because Paul is writing in the context of a community and how living by the spirit can affect the community, and make it greate, make it worse. As we read earlier, saying that, if we indulge in that sinful, sinful nature, we'll end up biting and devouring each other.
And we see this conflict in the greater global sense, and as our, as our world is experiencing war and unable to listen, compromise, share, agree, respect. Right, it's so big we see it there. We see it in our cities that they’re just, just unable to, to listen. We see it in our churches, church communities, or even our fellowship at Tyndale, just how the sinful nature, the selfishness, this can really affect a community. We see it in our families, we see it in ourselves.
So many of us feel as though there's not much we can do in a global way. Nations are at war. But you know, it comes way down from the big global, all the way down to just one soul, one heart. And where is the conflict within you? And how do we make peace and ask Jesus to guide us to live more and step with the spirit? And then what does that look like in our family and how we treat our family? How do we treat our community and our church? People? How about our neighbours? It starts with ourselves and then moves outward. And so our job is to notice that conflict within ourself. Notice those sinful desires that rage inside. And to set the table with Jesus, we’re able to speak and talk about where our tendencies are and how he can come alongside.
And so I'm going to give you this moment to talk to God about where this conflict between walking in step with the spirit and walking in step with your own sinful nature plays out, in yourself, in your family. Maybe if you have time moving into your church. It's good to just talk about where this, this tension and friction is, and allow Christ and his gaze to come upon you in these spaces.
Allow me to read verses 22 to 26. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature, with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Here we have a beautiful image Paul uses about fruit, the fruit of the spirit and we can be, we can go back to our gratitude practice and think about all that we got to see this summer. See how God grew all the vegetation. All the beauty. Were you able to talk to God about that? I just wonder if you're able to talk to Jesus now about all the beauty within your community, whether it's in yourself, your family, your friendships. Where do you see these beautiful fruits of the spirit alive and active? This love, this joy, this peace, this faithfulness, this kindness. Because this is a communal thing and it's meant to be encouraged and cultivated and shared and seen and acknowledged.
Let's think about those people that we see these specific attributes in. Let's imagine going to them and telling them, ‘I see the fruit of joy in you.’ Or maybe writing them a message, ‘Thank you for showing me what gentleness looks like and feels like.’
We as people, as family, as community, we have this opportunity to help and to be a part of God's cultivation of his fruits of the spirit. And so seeing this in our midst, naming it is, is like just glorifying God in who He is. And I believe that as we notice the fruits around us and desire them and desire to be in step with the spirit for this, that this could change who we are and transform our family groups, our friendship groups, and beyond.
“Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit.” This is no easy task. It's so easy to be like my dog and run off free and get into trouble, but thankfully my dog knows my voice and he'll come back. And usually he gets a treat for coming back, and then we spend time together, cleaning, washing, and starting again. And so, may you think about the days to come and how you can become more in step. Whether it's through this kind of prayer practice, or a time of worship, or time of friendship connection. How do you envision keeping in step with the Spirit in the hours and the days to come?
Jesus, as we sit at this table for this sit-down meal where we just say thank you. Thank you for this word. Thank you for your presence, and how you feed us, and you nourish us and you grow us. You also prune us, and reshape us, and just desire for more fruit to emerge from us. So thank you for this time, this intimate space for us to sit, to eat, to gaze, to digest. So as we get up from this table, as it were, from this prayer, as we go out into our lives, may we remember this intimacy, this love, this care, this concern that you have for us and for our lives, and for the world.
So we'll, we'll read this beautiful blessing from Paul: “Grace and peace to you from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father. To him, be glory forever and ever. Go in peace, my friends, to bear fruit.