Some churches have cool names and I get envious. “Emmanuel”, for instance, is a great name for a church. “God with Us” is what Emmanuel means. “Jubilee” I like as well. It describes an ancient Hebrew event that celebrates the forgiveness of past debts. “St Paul’s” is a great name too. If ever there was a name to be named after, it’s Paul. A pretty amazing man who wrote half the new testament and shone the Christ light into the world like no one has before.
And then, there’s “First”. That’s our name. “First Presbyterian Church.” Comparatively, it’s a little lame. 140 years ago, there must have been a town contest in church building, and nobody wanted to be second or third. It likely won’t win the People's Choice nod for best church name.
In my mind, the best church name is “New Life”. If I ever start up a new church in some other town I’d definitely steal that one. Not only does it describe what we all want deep down, but it sums up Jesus’ mission in two words. “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21)
Over the next seven weeks, you’re going to be looking out your window, and you’re going to see new life bursting out everywhere. Every day will look just a little bit different than the day before. And over the next seven weeks in our livestream worship at First Pres, we’ll look at new things that God promises to grow in your life. So that when you look outside, and see growth, you can also look in, at your life, and see growth. Paul says, “if God loves the world of nature so much to give it this kind of miraculous growth, how much more growth will God give you in your life?”
There’s an image in the Bible that is well known to Christians. The image is of a tree that grows, and when the Spirit of God surrounds and nourishes that tree, it grows a certain kind of fruit. It’s brand new, this fruit, it’s a new thing, and it nourishes the world.
When the Spirit of God is not surrounding or nourishing that tree, it gets nourishment from something away from the Spirit of God, and it grows another kind of fruit. This fruit not only does not nourish the world, it hurts the world. It fills disease throughout the world.
Not really a surprise that the tree is you. And me. When we trust God, and listen to God’s direction, and walk in step with the Spirit, God will grow good fruit in our lives.
Here’s the first part of the Bible verse: The fruit of the Spirit is kindness and goodness. (Galatians 5)
So, you and me are like something planted in the world, and if we’re faithful to God, listen to his voice, and try to live the life that God wants us to live, we’re going to grow the things of God that will change us and give us new life. And the first thing is “kindness and goodness.”
But let’s be honest. When you’re on your knees praying, or, whatever prayer stance you assume, what are you asking God to bring into your life? On my list of things God might grow in me is “Success”. “Prosperity”. ‘The relationship I want”. “Health”. “To be happy” “To have a career that fulfills me”. If you were to make a list of things you want God to grow you into, would “kindness” be on the top of that list? Not likely.
But it’s on the top of Jesus’ list. And when it’s shared, it’ll change your world as much as the worlds of those you share it with.
I’ll be blogging and speaking about what God grows for the next several weeks. Over those same weeks, keep looking outside to witness miracles of growth. And keep asking the question “If God does this for the earth, what can God grow in my life?”
More than you can imagine.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9