The Christ who gathers us up invites us to live a life of fruitfulness. That’s the call hidden in our text for this week. The text starts with questions about blame, about getting what is deserved. Jesus wants to change the conversation. Like a poem from Mary Oliver, he is asking us “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day” http://www.phys.unm.edu/~tw/fas/yits/archive/oliver_thesummerday.html.)
We all want our lives to amount to something. Jesus gives us that sense of purpose and direction. We are called to bear fruit. Of course, this needs to be explained further. What is fruitful? What kind of fruit? Who benefits from this fruit? But that’s part of the exercise: to learn to understand and experience our own fruitfulness.
Worship could be first of all an invitation to the Spirit to help us be more fruitful, asking God to guide us and direct us toward service and witness. We could pray and sing about opening eyes, about seizing the moment, about recognizing our connection to all of humanity and indeed to all of creation.
In addition, we can celebrate service and mission and ministry in the life of the community of the church. Some might be opposed to this elevating of church activities in the time of worship. “We don’t want to do commercials,” they might say, or “We don’t want to emphasize one activity over others.” But elevating opportunities for service with the family of God is more than a commercial or announcement. It is an act of worship. We are extending worship beyond the sanctuary into the wider community, even as we are giving God glory by living a fruitful life in God’s name.
In the end, we proclaim the word that to be gathered up in Jesus is not simply for our own benefit, not simply to make us better, or feel better about ourselves. Being gathered up in Jesus has an impact on the world around us. The fruit we bear is where transformation can begin to take root.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.