My good friend and colleague (especially when it comes to building bridges between comedy and theology), The Rev. Laura Gentry (or, as she is also known, “Laughing Laura”) began a sermon on “The Fruits of the Spirit” with the following comical observation.
Remember those old 1970s commercials for Fruit of the Loom? A woman called "Granny" would be talking about how she always bought Fruit of the Loom underwear for her boys and then suddenly, the Fruit of the Loom guys from the little tag would magically appear in full size. A man in a huge apple costume, complete with an apple core hat, a man in a big green grape costume, another man in a big purple grape costume, and a little guy dressed as the leaves would all stand in a cluster behind Granny and discuss how incredible the super-band waistbands are. As a child, I always thought it would be neat to have the Fruit of the Loom guys show up at my house to have a conversation the virtues of underwear.
Pastor Laura then goes on to share what each of the so-called "fruits of the Spirit" would say about their various virtues. Not only that, but she speaks through the characters of fruit painted with faces that look fun and funny. Like the Fruit of the Loom guys.
What Pastor Laura's ideas and artwork bring to my mind are the wacky fruit images that we saw on packages of “Funny Face” powdered drink mixes. Do you “Funny Face”? It was Pillsbury’s answer to “Kool-Aid”, and instead of the latter’s amusingly personified “happy pitcher”, there were several hilariously drawn fruit, all with wacky names: Goofy Grape, Freckle Face Strawberry, Loud Mouth Lime, Choo-Choo Cherry, Jolly Olly Orange and, last but not least, Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry. (My fave! I don’t remember if we drank “Funny Face” at home, at least not initially, since it was first sweetened with cyclamate, but I’ll never forget, and not love, these guys, especially Rootin’ Tootin’!)
Let’s face it – fruit can make for such a fun, funny symbol! Very joyful and playful.
Why is that?
For one thing, fruit is very colorful. And it’s sweet. It’s almost like candy. But a lot more healthy. It’s both main dish and dessert.
Fruit is also luscious and juicy -- a symbol of fecundity and sex and the indomitable power of LIFE which are all definitely strong comic themes .
I’m not sure if Paul ever intended his description of what the Holy Spirit produces in us to be embraced as playful and funny, but the Comic Lens thinks it’s totally within the bounds of contemporary theological and existential meaning-making to let any and all inclinations toward merriment take over your thoughts – and actions – about fruit and go nutso! We can’t celebrate the Fruits of the Spirit too much, especially today!
Right now the world around us feels sooo intractably heavy and scary and forces all around us – both conservative and progressive – seem to mesmerize us into becoming angry, frightened, selfish, bigoted, divisive and hateful (the very bad stuff that Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 warns about.) No matter how well-meaning we may try to be, It’s so hard not to capitulate to such instincts.
And/But, as Paul tells also tells us, we have one hope: the Holy Spirit. Let it live, consciously plant and let it live in our hearts. Love, peace, patience, goodness and all the rest will naturally blossom out of us in all we think, say and do.
It seems especially now so difficult, and so important, to produce these latter qualities (and care for the Spirit that generates them). So let your imaginations go wild and fully imbued with the power of child-likeness when celebrating the Fruits of the Spirit, especially in all their FRUITINESS!
Live through the Comic Lens (as we believe the Bible wants you to) as you encounter Galatians 5:13-25 (our lectionary epistle lesson for tomorrow) like there’s no tomorrow! So there can be a tomorrow!!
Here are a few suggestions to get your imaginations a-bursting for your own fruity folderol!
Create your very own "God Sightings!"
Or fruit sculptures! Especially ones that invite thoughts of God!
Enjoy a groovy cartoon based on the "Funny Face" Drink Mix characters!
Or a really terrific song about Spiritual Fruit!
Go ahead, be a little bit naughty!
Or order a copy of Pastor Laura's nifty poster filled with her creative inspired Fruit of the Spirit artwork!
Invent your very own "Fruit of the Spirit" character that brings to life Galatians 5 in probably more ways than you want to know! Here's my creation: "Farmin' Miranda!"
Whatever you do, let yourself see - and experience - the world through FRUIT! What an assignment!!