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Fruit Salad

Posted on 16 Jul 2023

July 16, 2023

Colossians 3:12-17

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


Yesterday, my family arrived home from a week at Silver Lake camp, our Southern New England church camp.  From Sunday afternoon until Saturday morning, my husband, partner, and co-dean, Stu and I led a program called “Team Lego” for 26 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.  In addition to clothing ourselves with suntan lotion, bug spray, and from time to time rain gear, we also spent the week clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Those might not be the first words that come to mind when you think about a week of overnight camp with kids; however it is completely true.  Perhaps it was this mix of kids, maybe it was the holiness of Silver Lake, or the chaplain’s daily messages about the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whatever the cause, this community of 26 campers, 2 counselors, and 2 deans who began the week as strangers became an authentic community of God’s peace and love as we lived together around the clock for 6 days.

Throughout the week, I watched these kids embody patience as they adjusted to changes in the plan due to thunderstorms or waited to take their swim test or to climb Mudge Mountain, an inflatable iceberg with handholds.  I watched them be kind, always including one more person in a game of Uno or gaga ball (which is basically dodge ball in an octagonal pen).  Team Lego went gaga for it.  There was such joy on their faces each and every time they ran across the field to the gaga ball pit, which I teasingly called the playpen.  I saw them be considerate at meals, going to the kitchen for seconds instead of always making the designated server go.  And they worked together as a team, God’s team, at the challenge course and in creating and leading worship for the whole camp.

It really was an amazing week in God’s backyard, as we sometimes call Silver Lake.  It was an amazing week because each of these kids, these very different kids, from very different backgrounds, each of them shared their gifts and talents, shared their authentic selves with the community.  It was like a good fruit salad – with each part enhancing the whole.

This summer, I am generally preaching on the fruits, the gifts of the Spirit separately – focusing either on joy, patience, peace, love, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, generosity or kindness; however like a good fruit salad, they really all go together, with one gift enhancing the other.  Practicing the gift of self-control enables us to be generous with others. Kindness is entwined with patience, compassion, and gentleness.  And over and over again, Jesus and the early Christian writers teach us that faithfulness is love and that love is everything.  Love is patient and kind; love is generous and gentle, humble and joyful.  “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

And that is a tall order – like the mother who emailed me that she hoped her children would have the amazing experience at Silver Lake that she and her husband had had!

The invitation to follow Jesus Christ is the invitation to clothe ourselves with all of the gifts of the Spirit, with compassion, kindness, and patience, to clothe ourselves with love – and Paul is not talking about a sweatshirt you can take on and off depending on how you are feeling.  Paul is talking about all of the time, a way of life so natural to us that it’s like wearing your very, very favorite sweatshirt.  You want to do it regardless of the temperature, regardless of how you feel.  You just never want to be without your love, kindness, patience, and compassion.

And goodness, that is hard.  I speak from experience when I tell you that it is hard to be clothed in the fruits of the Spirit when after a very long and active day of 16,000 steps, going down and back up the hill to the lake, and when after having coaxed two homesick children to sleep, you finally crawl into bed at 11pm and then find them one after another at your bedside an hour and two later.  It is hard to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness and patience when all you want them to do is go to sleep so you can sleep too.  It is even harder the second night when a different homesick child wakes you at 1:30am to complain of nausea and ask to be taken to the nurse – in the rain.

I’m not being humble at all when I tell you that it was not hard at all to be compassionate, kind, and loving – and not just because these particular kids were sweet, kind, and loving themselves.  It was easy to clothe myself in love, kindness, and compassion, because all day long, through this wonderful little community of Christ, called Team Lego, I was clothed in love, kindness, and compassion.  It was easy to embody the gifts of the Spirit because this wonderful little community of Christ, called Team Lego, embodied those gifts all day long, nurturing those gifts in me.

And that is one of the many blessings of the gifts of the Spirit.  Clothed in love, kindness, patience, and compassion, we create authentic communities of God’s peace and love, which in turn clothe us and others in love, kindness, patience, and compassion.

It is the combination of all of the gifts of the Spirit – a spiritual fruit salad if you will, that makes our lives better, makes our relationships better, and makes others’ lives better, passing the blessings on and on.

Now that we have returned to our “normal” lives and no longer are awakened by Stu’s song of the day, no longer sing grace before a meal and a silly song after, now that we no longer go to bed in a bunk room filled with others, after sharing our Lego creations, our joys, and a story each night, now that we have all returned home, I have no idea if the campers of Team Lego 2023 are going to keep on their camp shirts of love, kindness, compassion, and patience.

I just know that they have made it easier for me to clothe myself in love, kindness, compassion, and patience.  I will treasure their joy, their pure joy, when they sang, or rather shouted “bubble gum, bazooka, zooka, bubble gum” at the top of their lungs.  I will forever remember the compassion and generosity of one 6th grade boy offering another 6thgrade boy a hug after the boy got hurt and the generosity and kindness of that boy in accepting the hug.  I am humbled and in awe at their willingness to put aside any shyness or insecurities and open their hearts to strangers, becoming bosom friends in the space of hours, generously sharing friendship bracelets and origami creations and details about their lives.  And I will carry in my heart their hand raised and waving enthusiasm to be the one to share kind words about and with each other during affirmation circle.

For six days, twenty-six campers, two counselors, and two deans sang together, played together, swam together, praised God together, ate together, laughed together, got annoyed and then forgave one another, and found themselves bound together as God’s team, God’s authentic community of love and peace.

For six days, twenty-six campers, two counselors, and my fellow co-dean clothed me in the fruit salad of the Holy Spirit, encouraging me to be my best self, inspiring me to pass on to others the love and peace of Jesus Christ, and energizing me to go forth from Silver Lake and use the gifts of the Spirit to create more authentic communities of God’s peace and love in the world.