Apples, pears, grapes and pumpkins – fall is such a fruitful time of year! Did you know that from a botanical perspective, avocados, beans, peapods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives, peppers, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes are all considered fruits also? This is because they are the part of the plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful…”
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Our stewardship theme this year is Fruitful. What does it mean to follow God’s command to us in Genesis to be fruitful? What does Jesus mean when he says that the way to glorify God is to be fruitful and become his disciples? What kind of fruit are we supposed to be producing with our words, our actions, our lives? Does the fruit we produce contain the seeds for further growth, faith and new life?
Our stewardship theme invites us to take some steps in our lives and our ministry to reflect on who we are and who we are becoming. But more than just thinking and reflecting, we are called to do something, to live and practice our faith in such a way that our lives produce the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23
To help us, we are exploring the Five Practices of Fruitful Living outlined in Robert Schnase’s book by the same name. These five practices – radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity – ground us in the good news of God’s love and new life in Jesus Christ and help us grow into the people and the church that God created and calls us to be. These five practices are essential for living fruitful lives at home, at work, in the community and world.
Writing about the fifth practice, Extravagant Generosity, Robert Schnase says this, “Each step is grace-driven. Each practice trains the heart. God’s love insinuates itself deeper into our souls, drawing us toward a life rich in what matters most: faith, hope, and love. At some point, we realize that all that we have and all that we are belong to God. And that leads us to the practice of Extravagant Generosity.”
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, … so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. ~ 1 Timothy 6:18-19
This year, we are invited to live into the practice of Extravagant Generosity with renewed awareness of God’s generosity toward us. Our Stewardship Commission, Tami and I invite everyone to practice generosity extravagantly. The Bible calls this tithing or first fruits giving, setting aside ten percent (10%) of our income as a gift to God. Tithing is far more than just a way for the church to meet its budget. It is a spiritual discipline and practice that invites us to prioritize our lives with God at the center.
Now, we expect that this may be like sticker shock to some people. “I can’t do that.” “I’m not in a financial place to do that.” But, our church has been living toward this for the past few years. We haven’t asked you to give to a budget. We’ve asked you to express your faith in and love for God by increasing your giving, mainly through increasing the percentage of your income you give. It is now time to reach for the goal. As Schnase writes,
We obligate ourselves to bring the first fruits of our soil and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord. ~Nehemiah 10:35
As people of faith and a church, we are reaching toward the goal of a fruitful life. This is defined first and foremost by how we receive God’s love and understand that all that we are and all that we have belong to God. We are reaching toward the goal of abundant life rich in what matters most: faith, hope and love. We are reaching toward the goal of becoming who God created and calls us to be, so that our lives and our ministry together may bear much fruit and plant the seeds of love, faith and new life in the world. So, please join us as we grow more fruitful in our lives and share in the life that is truly worth living.
See you in church
~Tami and Chip