Bearing Fruit in Lent
Our family’s return to the Midwest has not been too jarring. Blessedly, the winter has been mild so far. Still, the landscape outside is dreary, a composite of greys and browns. The tomato plants in our backyard, which were yielding fruit aplenty when we moved in, haven’t been doing much of anything lately. Winter has been mild, but we’re a long way from the lushness and growth that spring and summer will bring. This is not a time for bearing fruit.
Bearing fruit. This is a common motif in the New Testament. We are called to bear good fruit for the sake of the kingdom; we are called to cultivate and manifest the fruit of the Spirit. But sometimes, the landscape is just too dreary. Sometime, it does not seem like there is anything within us that will produce the good works God desires from us.
This year, our theme for Lent is “Bearing Fruit.” In our devotions and in our midweek worship services, we will be focusing on bearing fruit through texts from Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul encourages his readers to bear fruit, but he is not laying a demand upon them. He is not insisting that they do anything. Instead, Paul is focusing them on the seed that has been planted within them, the seed that is the hope of Christ for the sake of the world: “We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (1:4-6).
What is bearing fruit in the world? Are we? No! It is the hope of Christ, the word of the truth, the gospel itself that is bearing fruit among us. When looked at through this lens, Lent becomes for us not a time to focus on what we need to do or stop doing. Lent is rather the call to stop thinking about ourselves altogether, to get out of our own way and watch as Jesus bears fruit into the world in, through, and among us. It doesn’t matter how dreary the landscape appears to be, either around us or within us. What matters is the quality of the seed that is planted. When that seed is the word of truth and the hope of Jesus Christ, it can grow whenever and wherever the Spirit wills it to grow. Even in us!
As we enter Lent on Ash Wednesday, we will hear again that we are dust and to dust we shall return. What could possibly grow and produce fruit among the ashes? As it turns out, the gospel can grow up from the ashes, for that is what the gospel is. It is hope born out of sorrow; it is life brought forth from death. This year during Lent, I hope you’ll bear fruit for the sake of God’s kingdom – fruit that emerges when we trust that God in Christ can make the Word grow anywhere. Even in us. And that is the grace of God that Paul calls us to comprehend.
Pastor Dave Lyle
Copies of the devotion booklet “Bearing Fruit,” with daily readings based on Paul’s letter to the Colossians,
are available at Grace.