Dates/Times: June 13-17, 2011 — 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.*
Location: Holy Trinity Orthodox Church — 119 S. Sparks St., State College, PA
* Monday’s VBS begins immediately after the 8 a.m. Holy Spirit Day Divine Liturgy.
This month our Sunday School will host its annual Vacation Bible School (VBS) and Afterfeast of Pentecost (Trinity Week) our theme this year is “I’ve Got the Fruit of the Spirit in Me.” The instruction will focus on the fruits of the Spirit as described by St. Paul in his epistle to the Galatians (5:22-23). Although VBS is for children, it also is a time of learning and sharing for parents (yes, parents, there may be homework for you.)
Throughout the Bible, there are references to many types of trees such as almond, apple, cedar, chestnut, fig, olive, palm, pine, and willow. In his letter, Paul presents the Spirit in the symbolism of a fruit tree. He does this so with the psalmist in mind where it is said that man is like a tree (Psalm 1) and also Jesus’ statement that men are like good trees and bad trees (Matt. 7:16-20). The illustration is used to help us understand the nature and function of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s world, we sometimes for purposes of décor place artificial plants, greens, etc., here and there for the best total effect. In the same way, when we survey our spiritual houses and discover something is lacking, we go out and fill the gaps by putting out our “artificial” trees, becoming which we are not or should not be. We do this hoping to improve our appearance and gratify our own longing to look better.
In other words, we try to substitute our own dry arrangements for the living fruit tree of the Holy Spirit! However, we do not have to play such a game of make-believe. When the tree of the Spirit thrives within us, we can point to both the tree and its fruit and say, “this is the real thing.”
The fruits that Paul speaks of are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle-ness, and self-control. These are lovely and such fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit but trees can and do die. This is not to suggest that the life of the eternal Spirit is in danger. It is to remind us that the tree of the Spirit has enemies. So far as we are concerned, the diseases are jealousy, lack of forgiveness, indifference, worldliness, and a score of other sins which can make their attack so that the result is the same: the tree is not permitted to flourish and bear fruit.
It is no accident that the fifth chapter of Galatians begins, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (5:1). Thus, there is the liberating fruit of the Spirit. Love begets freedom from hate. Joy brings freedom from gloom. Peace displaces conflict. Goodness triumphs over evil. Faith brings freedom from confusion. Gentleness delivers from arrogance. Self-control liberates us from excesses.
From a practical perspective, in order to harvest the right fruits, there must be the right roots. Parents must make sure the right tree is planted. And to insure spiritual health, the tree must be given daily attention and nourishment to have a ready response to the Spirit. Remember the words of our Lord: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Let us all gladly let the tree of the Holy Spirit bear fruit through us.