4-30-15 - Fruitful

We are coming into the season of fruit in the northern hemisphere – beautiful, juicy, luscious, abundant fruit of every shape, size, color and taste. Fruit is one of God's greatest gifts.

According to Jesus, the one criterion for success as a follower of Christ is fruitfulness.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
And later in this long teaching, he says, “You did not choose me. I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16).

What does it mean to be fruitful? I think it goes deeper than simply being productive. Productivity involves generating outcomes and measurable results, things you can tick off a task list. Fruitfulness obviously includes a product – the fruit – but fruit develops in different ways on varying timetables. And we don’t “produce” fruit – we grow it. Or we allow it to grow; we can't make it grow. We can only create the right circumstances for it to grow. And we can't hurry it along. (Somebody tell tomato growers that...).

I love productivity – especially if I have produced things I can see: articles, songs, sermons, spreadsheets, newsletters. On a day with many pastoral appointments and meetings, I sometimes have trouble feeling I’ve “done” anything, because the outcomes aren’t visible and measurable. Jesus invites me to value fruitfulness even more than productivity.

How can we assess fruitfulness? I would love to hear your thoughts on that. The first thing I think of is changed lives. When we see people changing, healing, growing, turning God-ward, we are seeing good fruit. When we bring justice or peace or reconciliation to a community, we are seeing good fruit. When we experience greater joy and more love in our lives, we are seeing good fruit.

Where in your life do you feel the most fruitful? And what branches seem barren, producing little?
What fruit do you feel is still forming in your life? Does it have the water, sun and nutrients it needs? How can you foster greater growth?
What fruit do you see, and would like to see in your community of faith? How might you help cultivate greater fruitfulness, more changed lives?

Fruit forms well because it is attached to the plant that nourishes it. Our fruitfulness in life, and as followers of Christ, flourishes as we allow God’s Spirit to flow through us, to form and ripen us and our ideas, to bring us to the fullness of who we are intended to be. Then we bring delight to others, just like a beautiful peach or a perfect strawberry.

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