Bitter Fruit
Easter Wednesday
24 April 2018
A fruit tree planted where the roots absorb poison will inevitably produce bitter fruit. The tree may look beautiful and offer a lush crop to those who see it, but when the fruit is consumed it tastes bad and is noxious on the palate. All its beauty and fruitfulness is useless when the produce is bitter. So it is when the law forces fruit upon the tree of life. While the law itself is good and tells us that we must produce fruit in our lives as Christians, it has not the power to feed the crop it demands. While it may force fruit to bud and grow, it is noxious and bitter to the taste. The law can produce fruit but it is not the fruit that God seeks, or that is sweet to the taste. This gives us Christians a clue as to why it appears that unbelievers often produce more and more beautiful fruit in their lives than believers do. The law can force production. The tree of life can appear to be fruitful and attractive; lovely- and heavy with luscious-looking fruit, but it is bitter fruit indeed, if forced.
 
We all know that feeling when we require a child to do her chores, and all we get is a grudging effort to straighten up a cluttered room. Oh, yes, it may look clean and neat afterward, but the coercion necessary to affect the desired outcome makes it painful to us as parents. We would by far prefer a cheerful and freely offered effort toward completing household chores, even if imperfectly completed. That which is done in love has a greater value than that which appears to be done perfectly, but grudgingly. Love gives sweet fruit for love covers a multitude of sins (1Pt 4:8).
 
I grieve for the children who have been so publicly adopted by our modern "celebrities;" who claim to be giving orphans a good home by shutting them up in gilded palaces under the care of well-paid nannies, au pairs, and other domestic keepers. How magnificent it all looks, and how beautifully it is all portrayed by the fawning media toadies, who revel in this public piety. But what is there of love in this arrangement? Where love has been extracted from their lives all the stuff in the world will never get it back, no matter how lovely it all appears. It is ironic that the word "lovely" almost always modifies nouns that have nothing to do with love. A lovely life may well be loveless. This is bitter fruit indeed.
 
Good fruit comes from the connection to the true vine, who is Christ (Jn 15:5). Here is perfect love that flows through all we are and have. Sweet fruit arises from the sweetness of the Savior's love for us, His branches. Here the gospel produces and does all. The Lord Christ is the love of God incarnate and He is the one who works in us to do and to will of His good pleasure (Php 2:13).

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"The oldness of the letter, in the absence of the newness of the spirit, instead of freeing us from sin, makes us guilty by the knowledge of sin. Therefore, it is written in another part of Scripture, 'He who increases knowledge increases sorrow' (Eccl 1:18), not that the law is itself evil, but because the commandment has its good in the demonstration of the letter, not in the assistance of the spirit. If this commandment is kept from the fear of punishment and not from the love of righteousness, it is slavishly kept, not freely, and so it is not kept at all. For no fruit is good which does not grow from the root of love. If, however, that faith is present which works by love (Gal 5:6), then one begins to delight in the law of God after the inward man (Rm 7:22), and this delight is the gift of the spirit, not of the letter; even though there is another law in our members still warring against the law of the mind, until the old state is changed, and passes into that newness which increases from day to day in the inward man, while the grace of God is liberating us from the body of this death through Jesus Christ our Lord."

 Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, 1.26
John 21:1-14

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (ESV)
Collect for Easter Wednesday
Almighty God, by the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, You destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light. Grant that we who have been raised with Him may abide in His presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
 
For all those who serve in the armed forces of the nation, that they would be kept safe in their service and that we, who benefit from their service, would honor and respect them
 
For the Christians of Sri Lanka, who have lost loved ones and friends in the violence that erupted there on Easter Sunday, that the Lord Jesus would enable them to grieve in the hope of the bodily resurrection with Christ the living Lord
 
For Dr. Greg Seltz, the speaker at the Ladies' Retreat of Memorial Lutheran Church, that he would be kept safe in his travel to Houston
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias,  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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