OT: 2 Kings 2:6-14; Psalm 77:11-20

NT: Galatians 5:13-25

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62; Luke 6:1

Galatians 6:1-5

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.

Terms & Introduction – 

Raise your hand if you say “Tomahto”. How about “Tomayto”? Who eats this notably popular food? Who grows or has grown them? Think about why you eat and/or grow this tasty treat.

  • Is it to simply eat plain?
  • Or, add it to a salad?
  • Is it to dash some salt over?
  • Or, simply to add between two slices of bread massaged with the delectable white concoction, mayonnaise?

Whatever the reason, we can agree that tomatoes have a place on the table at any given time and a criterion is in place for how we partake in it.

Today, we will glimpse at the general life of tomatoes as we seek to gain an understanding or reminder of our role in the garden of life. We will reflect on establishing the plot, maintaining the crop and results of the harvest. Here are the terms that will function as our tools to cultivate understanding of the passages read.

Gentleness. Gentleness is important and will function as our gloves. Gentleness is the balance of exercising power without exhibiting harshness. Again, this is the exercise of power without exhibiting harshness.

Love. There are multiple forms of love. In English, we have this single word “Love” that we use to convey an expansive variety of connections. I love doughnuts. I love the Gators. I love my family. I love my wife. I love summer. I love Jesus. We make distinctions between loving the Gators and loving our spouse or Jesus. Otherwise, there is no difference between Jesus and a doughnut; or, a tomato for that matter. So, we turn to the Greek to direct us here. Greek has Eros(erotic), Storge(parent-child; generic), Philia(friendship) and Agape. The word used by Jesus and referenced by Paul in Galatians 5:14, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, is agape. This is a love that stands apart from the other three. Agape is the tomato stake or cage to provide support. This is the unconditional charity provided by God to us, God’s created. To Agape our neighbor as our self is to be an unconditional support to our neighbor.

Spirit. Think of Spirit as the infilling of God which instigates us and motivates us. This existential compelling can be likened to the sustainers necessary for growth. These are the necessary elements to adjust the pH and the water necessary to survive. How long can most plants live in the wrong soil and/or without water? Not to their full potential for sure.

Fruits and Vegetables. I suggest identifying Fruits as the product of a swollen flower and Vegetables comprising of the vegetation of a plant. This includes roots, stalks and leaves. But, does this truly matter when it comes to deciding whether you will eat something or not?

V8 Splash doesn’t seem to mind putting a variety of fruits and vegetables together to make enjoyably refreshing drinks. Essentially, they are not bound by categorical subjectivity to restrict or govern their actions, but they are calculated in their process. They make flavor combinations that compliment one another. This goes for chefs too, as they may sort food one way, and we at home sort it another.

To query, does the chosen category decide the flavor, color or texture of the food? Or, is the food placed in a construct based on its own attributes? When a category isolates something from an undiscovered reasonable potential, then the category requires the questioning. So, is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?

Truth is. It doesn’t matter. You’re not eating a category. You’re eating a tomato in your chosen manner. But, why does this matter? We find ourselves placed in the category of Christian. Based on the choice we made to devote ourselves to Christ or because someone watched us walk through the front door. With this and other reasons in mind, the fruit we bear should be our categorizer, rather than the field we’re planted. A tomato planted in a cornfield no more makes it corn, than corn becoming a tomato if planted in a tomato field.

Moral of the story, share your fruits with others and let the fruits speak for themselves.

Pride and Humility. It is a blessing to be proud of our accomplishments, our children and any number of great things. Being proud is a celebration of blessing. But, when pride is used as a pruning shear it becomes divisive. An example is, using something you’re proud of as a means to belittle or mock someone else. Pruning is a permanent parsing.

Humility is a securing force, twine or gardener’s tape, fastening the tomato to the stake or cage. It does its job. It occasionally gets noticed, but it remains diligent in its task.

What we see is that pride minimizes and humility maintains. Humility is contingent upon the works of the Spirit to produce a context for fruits. Therefore, humility here is presence, patience and persistence.

Can we agree on the concepts established? This will help as we meander through our garden of experiences.

Establishing the Plot

I’ve heard it said that a $1 plant in a $10 hole is better than a $10 plant in a $1 hole. I’ve heard it a lot, not from Dr. Seuss. It was advice from my father, Dr. Ayers. Determining where, how and when to plant is equally important. To have all of the right, best equipment and high-end products ready to plant in the middle of winter may be useless. Sure, you can do it. But, will it achieve your goal for the effort put forth? With this logic, does the method match the desired result.

The need for shade or sun, availability of water, neighboring plants and time of year are essential to understand if your goal is to have a high quality tomato. Or, any crop for that matter. Let’s agree that the soil is ripe and perfect for planting. We plant our tomatoes. Now, we need to consider a plan for caring for this crop. Do we leave each plant isolated? Or, do we integrate helpers to support the growth and strength of the plant? Let’s look at a few dos and don’ts.

Do consider marigolds, basil and maybe some borage. Basil and borage can be eaten along with the tomatoes and function to repel pests that can harm the plant. We too should surround ourselves with edifiers and strengtheners. The marigold functions to repel pests and can be tilled back into the soil to enhance the resilience of the plot.

Don’t plant your tomatoes around corn because, each of these crops will attract destruction on the other. Avoid fennel, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts to name a few. These inhibit the growth of the tomatoes. They may still grow and produce a yield, but they will not be the most tomato that they could be given this chosen set of companions.

These simply are tips to guide us to producing a healthy harvest. The tomato may simply be only a single part of something greater, and it needs to be set up for optimization. We will have our corns and beans, but for now we are on our tomatoes.

Maintaining the Crop

The best pest control for a plant is a healthy plant. The health of the plant is dependant on the sun it receives, water provided and care of its surroundings. It is imperative that the plants are cared for during their growth if you have a plan for the crop. Otherwise, it will become overgrown and the crop will struggle.

Carrying out a regular, well-executed plan with a diligence manifest of a faith in the outcome is a near sure-fire way to enhance your yield. Barring unforeseen scenarios, you should be pleased with the results. Remove the dead parts that exacerbate the plant. Remove the weeds that are crowding or choking the plant. Provide the necessary sustainers and companions. Pat ourselves on the back to stay motivated, it can get tiresome and hot.

As mentioned before, pride minimizes and humility maintains. We will complete this adage to incorporate the maximizer. It is in the presence of the sustainers, the Spirit, that potential is maximized. So, Pride minimizes, God maximizes and Humility maintains.

Pest Control. As mentioned to the children, the Tomato Hornworm is a beautiful and simple caterpillar. Its simple elegance is deceiving to the untrained eye, and it could be left to wreak havoc on the plants. Wasps! We are taught too well to avoid wasps because they’ll sting us repeatedly, and we wouldn’t want that.

When caring for our crop of tomatoes we benefit from knowing what serves what purpose in the garden. Why are there insects to begin with, and how do I mitigate their presence? The Tomato Hornworm has one job. That job is to eat your plant. The Wasp is a predator of the Hornworm. It lays its eggs in the caterpillar and the larvae use it as a source of nutrition.

If your goal is to eat tomatoes after all of your efforts, then whom do you need to remove? And, who is essential to protect your garden? So, if you’re going into your garden with something that will impact your helpers, like an herbicide or insecticide, then consider your actions as it relates to your goal for the garden. Granted, swift action might be needed, but accountability should mitigate us as we remain focused on our goal.

Results of the Harvest

All right, your crop is ready to harvest. Were you devoted to the outcome with a reward of edible tomatoes? Or, did the crop become decimated due to a neglect and allowance of pests to prevail over persistence?

It’s going to be okay. In humility, Grace provides opportunity to fix what needs to be fixed and maintain what needs to be maintained based on the results. If you created a magnificent tomato garden, then keep up the great work. If you managed to create a Hornworm kennel, then let’s strategize on how we can remedy this. One may have failed to meet their goal, but this is not the same as one seeing one’s selves as a failure. Identify what needs to be corrected. Consult with whomever you need to in order to find the direction necessary to achieve your desired goal.

Whether it’s enjoying our tomatoes or learning what to fix, these fruits of our labor are the bounty of our harvest.

Now what?

The color, flavor, texture and usefulness of a tomato are independent of our restrictive categories. Calling it juicy didn’t make it juicy. The tomato presented its attribute with confidence and we processed it. So, to argue fruit or vegetable is to put a prescribed necessity for this food to fall into a categorical space that has zero impact on what use this food is to accomplish.

Reflecting back, transgressions are a contrary departure, overstepping of lines and turning away. Remember, the law died when Jesus took upon himself the trespasses of the world. The result of this was to be an equalizer not a destroyer. Though the destructive impact that was made correlated with the social structures of the flesh. Paul notes in Galatians 3 that there is no more male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek. He is providing clarification for believers that may attempt to usurp the work of the Spirit with constructs of the flesh. The Love that we are to extend to the world is only manifest from the Spirit, not the flesh.

Tomayto or Tomahto. Who cares? What we should care about is how can this tomato be used. The tomato was historically considered poisonous, as it’s a part of the nightshade family. For context, peppers, tobacco and eggplants are relatives of this delightful, ruddy treat. Personally, I’m glad someone gave the tomato a chance to transcend its stigma and enter into the light of edible foods.

In closing, do our characteristics, fruits of the spirit if you will, transcend the perceptions placed on our category, Christian, as a demonstration of the Love from within nourished by the Spirit? If so, then we will be compelled to do these two things well. Love God and Love Others.

Till next time. Thanks Be To God