Sometimes, a theme for a particular Sabbath comes through the unobtrusive combination of many elements, that although uncoordinated by the people involved shows a certain coherence that draws attention. Indeed, this combination of independent but simultaneously interrelated decisions to focus on certain things is taken as providential. So it was today, and it dealt with the sort of subject that I think about from time to time , and my thoughts on it were more than a little bit melancholy. Perhaps those stories that were meant to express a certain amount of joy on the part of the speaker could not help but bring a certain sense of sadness to me as a listener, but that is often how things are. We speak based on what we know and what we have observed, and we listen with different thinking and thought processes and experiences and situations in life than those who speak. Such is the way of the world. Whether or not we like to consider ourselves as being subject to the same sorts of influences and factors as the rest of the world, we are human beings just like everyone else, and we need to remember that other people are still people even if they are redeemed people and cannot be expected to have tossed aside their human nature simply because God is working within them the miracle of transforming their own natures to a better one.
This common theme began with one of the songs chosen to introduce Sabbath services, with its moving line, “Oh, that we might see some good, many will say. Only look and smile on us, O righteous God.” It is common for people to act in such a way that they think they may see some good, only for this not to be the case. We are not immune from these tendencies, and when we point out that other people may long for good without being really equipped to obtain it, or really serious about what it would take for us to see some good in our lives and in our relationships, we are not always sensitive to the fact that we are pointing fingers at ourselves just as surely as we are pointing them at other people. For example, a part of our trip here was to encourage a reconciliation between two estranged people—and for a change, I was not one of them—and yet the end result was only to reveal the sorts of gaps that lead people to be estranged in the first place, and the apparent aggression of some and the simultaneous avoidance of others who do not want a reconciliation that does not change the offensive behavior that led to the estrangement in the first place.
This theme continued with the sermonette given by a man who no doubt has some complicated views of me given our past dealings, but who I take to be a decent if somewhat restrained person in his demeanor. He commented at some length about the newlywed cruise he and his wife had taken, and the fact that their colorful choice of costume had led them to be chosen for a particular game show that sought to pit the husbands and wives against each other for the enjoyment of the crowd, an effort that was foiled by their commitment to only speak what was noble and true and good about each other. Among the more insightful comments of the message was that the crowd which had come to see husbands and wives embarrass each other and humiliate each other eventually came to realize that they wanted to see something that they had not realized. They had wanted to see good, even without knowing it, perhaps in despair about the existence of such good in the first place. This is a common problem within humanity. It is easy to protect our sensitive and tender hearts with a veneer of cynicism, to believe that our feelings cannot travel without layers of irony, because we do not hope that others will be kind to us and act with concern towards us. This cynicism is, of course, borne out by a large part of the interactions that we have in life, but that cynicism prevents us from recognizing good to a great extent. As is often the case in life, what we do as people to defend ourselves from the evil that exists around us and within us often only makes that evil more pervasive by being less often resisted.
The sermon continued the theme, with the minister talking about the difference between good and bad wheat taken from a field close to where the recent men’s weekend was held as an entrance into a thoughtful discussion about bearing fruit. It was pointed out that we often set a low bar for ourselves, whether we are wheat or tares, and do not think of the purposes of plants in bearing fruit for the benefit of others like ourselves. It is not enough merely not to do evil, but we must do good as well. It is not enough simply to seek our own well-being, but we must seek the well-being of others. Our lives must bear fruit and must serve for the benefit of others. If others are not being improved by our own lives, we are not fulfilling our own purposes for existence. The message, as might be imagined, was a challenging one when taken on its contents, although it was delivered with a great amount of grace and tact, and with the use of the wheat and the contrast between the wheatberries as an object lesson that helped to make the delivery of the message far less heavy-handed than it could have been. It was the sort of message meant to give others food for thought and reflection, to remind us to avoid a sense of complacency in what we are about and to spur us onward to being more fruitful in our lives.
I often wonder about whether my life is being productive. Mankind was commanded to be fruitful and multiply at the beginning of the Bible—it is in fact the first commandment mankind is given, and I feel I do not obey this commandment as well, that my life is not particularly fruitful. I wonder about the proportion of good fruit and bad fruit, about the balance between the good I do others and the harm I have done to others through the course of my life. Perhaps these are common concerns and perhaps I am not the most just person to examine my own life. Yet the only mind and heart I know intimately at this stage of life are my own, if they are not the most pleasant mind and heart to know, they are my own and I have no others to choose from. Producing fruit and multiplying cannot be hard work, for they are something that are done by brainless plants and the great mass of plants and animals without any thought or reflection whatsoever. Sometimes it seems that thinking and reflecting only gets in the way of doing what is often done naturally by the great mass of beings that exist on our world. Yet some of us cannot act naturally, but are compelled to be conscious and deliberate, and therefore a bit more awkward than those who are able to simply act without reflection. Yet this awkwardness cannot be a bad thing forever, right? Even odd fruit must have its own way to be fruitful, however delayed, no?
 See, for example: