Waimea United Church of Christ

 

Luke 6:43-49                           “How to Produse”

 

            In August, 2011, an article appeared in the “Scientific American” that spoke about DNA evidence in coconuts that allowed scientists to track the spread of the coconut fruit from where the first trees were to all the beaches around the world where the coconut palms can be found today. Would you not like to know where all of our Pacific coconuts come from? Where do you think? Not Samoa. Not Tahiti. Not the Philippines.

            The answer can be found in the person who read the scripture from the pulpit this morning. That would be my daughter Kim, who is of course half her mother’s child, meaning that she is also part Malaysian. Ah yes, our coconuts in Hawaii come from the Malay Peninsula. When you therefore see a coconut, you should think of my daughter Kim. Coconut—Kim—both good! Both from Malaysia.

            Most of the time when we see a coconut lying on the beach, we do not ask ourselves about the tree that it came from. We do not consider the journey that the coconut has taken. It could have come from Kapaa, the Coconut Coast, Malaysia, or maybe even from Costco over in Lihue. Isn’t  it often said that all good things come from Costco?

            Bigger question now: Where does our faith in God come from? Do not say “Malaysia.” It comes from Jesus who planted that faith into his disciples, who planted it into their disciples, and so on and so forth down through the centuries and around the world. We should consider that Luke was writing his gospel sometime around 62 AD. He is the latest of the gospel writers. In chapter 1, the very first lines, we read that Luke was writing everything down to make an “orderly account” of the good news. He is doing this because the first generation of Christians was passing away. If the Christian church did not start bearing fruit, then there would be no Christianity left in the world.

            Too often when we hear the old adage “The fruit does not fall far from the tree” we think in terms of parents and their children. Yet, here, it seems clear that the reference is to our faith in Jesus.

Jesus is good. He healed. He blessed. He sacrificed His life for our eternal salvation. That is all really good! Yet, if we in turn do not share in that goodness in our own lives, people may look at us and be turned away from the faith. “I like Christ; can’t say the same maybe for Christians, you know!”

This last Thanksgiving I dutifully made the traditional Apfelstrudel for the Thanksgiving meal at Ruth’s big neighborhood party. I went to Costco and got a plastic tray of Gala Apples. You cannot tell one tray from the next. You never know what you are getting. As I peeled the apples, I took a sliver into my mouth to inform me of how much sugar I would need to add. I tasted that bit of apple, and I was truly amazed. It was the best apple I had ever tasted. It was crisp and sweet and so filled with apple flavor. And, it produced what I will deem the best tasting apple strudel I have ever had the privilege of baking.

There were some leftover apples after the baking was done. Three beautiful gala apples in that plastic tray. I ate one each day over the next three days. I generally do not savor apples that way. But, these apples were just so delicious.

The next time I was in Costco, however, I went over to the apple boxes to see about buying more of those delicious galas. They did not look the same. These apples now were far too yellow. They were definitely not from the same tree. I was not going to risk buying apples again that might not taste as good as the previous ones. I had wished that the apples might have been packed and labeled by the tree they came from. Alas, no such luck. 

If we could only know from which tree fruit actually comes from! Our lives would be so much easier and tastier. We could just simply avoid the bad fruit by knowing that it came from that bad source.

 

On that point, I wanted to point out something that does not translate well in our pew Bibles. You see, the first time Jesus speaks about “good” fruit, the word used is “καλος.” This means just plain “good.” Yet, in verse 45 Jesus talks about the “good” person. This is no longer the adjective “καλος,” but rather the word “αγαθος.” We get the name “Agatha” from this Greek word. It is not just plain “good.” The term might better be translated as “virtuous,” or even “saintly” as in extremely holy.

The question therefore is not “where does our goodness come from?” but rather “Where does our holiness come from?” The answer is of course that it comes from God through Jesus Christ to us.

This holiness is a strange kind of fruit indeed as we read that it is that which comes out of the “abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” You see, most of the time we consume the fruit, but here Jesus turns that around: the fruit is proffered by the words of our mouth.

            Read along with me the “fruits of the spirit” from Galatians 5:22-23 “. . . .the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, happiness, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

 

            Let us do a little jump to verse 49 of our Scripture for today. We no longer are talking about fruit, but now about a foundation for a house: “The one who hears and does not act is like the man who built his house on the ground without a foundation.”

            The author Alex Bruns has written about the idea of “Produse.” This is not “produce” as you would find in the produce section of the supermarket. This is the idea of producing and using interchangeably. The claim is that since the Internet, we no longer produce so much as use in order to produce. The example that most would understand is the social media platform called “Facebook.” If nobody used Facebook, there would be no Facebook to look at on our computers. It is the use of Facebook that very much creates Facebook. This is “produsing” in the modern era.

            In biblical terms, “produsing” has always been the pattern. If we are not accepting the fruits of the Spirit, then we are not acting them out in our lives, then we are not producing the fruits of the Spirit for ourselves. Right? If we are not accepting the love of Christ over our lives, then how should we speak of godly or holy love, it will be of no use to us—or to anyone else.

            I want you to consider the fact that the State of Hawaii and the Federal government looks at us not as a “collection of like-minded believers worshipping on Sunday mornings.” No, to these outside entities we are merely a state-recognized legally chartered Hawaii Corporation with a federal 501c3 NPO tax status. That is why we are forced to have annual budgets, annual meetings, elect officers of the corporation, and the like. In this light, the question should be asked “What do we produce in the church?” We are a corporation: What do we make?

            Going back to the writings of Victor Frankl, whom I mentioned last week. He has noted that in our search for meaning in this world, there is really only one thing that will give life meaning. He notes this from his experience of having everything taken away from him as he was a prisoner in Auschwitz fighting for his very survival day in and day out. What kept him going? Why did he not just give up on life? He writes that he had hope of being with loved ones again. It was love of others that kept him alive. His conclusion was that what gives every life meaning on this planet is simply to love and be loved.

            Matthew 22:37-40, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. . . .and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. . . .” Jesus commanded us to simply to love. This is fruit that comes from us. This is what we produce here in this church. This is what gives life meaning. We use Christ’s love, and in so doing produce Christ’s love in the world. We “produse” love in this world.

            Think about the season of Christmas that has just ended: What would it all mean without God ‘so loving the world that He gave his only begotten Son. . . .’ We produse the greatest gift of all at Christmas.

            If all the churches on the planet were to suddenly close, would there still be a Christmas? Maybe. But it would be a Christmas without the love of Christ.

 

            Produse the love of Christ today in our world. Accept it. Proffer it. Be the holiness that the world needs today!

 

Amen.