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Duration:20 mins 36 secs

Summer Tune Up Sermon Series

“Headlights Work?  Kindness and Goodness”

Ephesians 4: 1-3, 31-32, 5:1

(Luke 6: 27-31)

June 27, 2021

 

            There was a little boy who had been struggling with being good.  His mother told him he should ask God to help him.  So that night, as his mother listened to his bedtime prayers, he prayed, “God, please help me be a good boy.  But if you can’t make me a good boy, that’s ok.  I’m having a whole lotta fun just like I am.”1

            Goodness and kindness.  Things we know we should strive for, but are sometimes hard to achieve. 

            We are in the middle of a Summer Tune Up sermon series, using Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit to give our lives a once over.  Just like we give our cars a summer tune up, we’re having a spiritual tune up to make sure that our lives as Christians are in good working order.  So far we’ve seen that love is the engine that makes our lives go; we’ve re-charged the battery of joy in our lives, and last week, we learned how to maintain our cooling system of peace and patience.  Today, our focus is on the fruit of goodness and kindness.  Goodness and kindness are like the car’s headlights.  Have you ever seen someone driving in the dark without headlights?  Without light, the vehicle is obscured.  Part of our regular tune up should involve asking, “Do our headlights work?”  Are we shining the light of Christ so that others can see God?

            The two passages we heard this morning talk about goodness and kindness.  In the Bible, goodness and kindness are very closely akin to one another, and they both have to do with shinging the light, as Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Headlights not only illuminate our path, they help others to see God at work. 

            The passage from Luke that Patricia read is one of Jesus’ most fundamental teachings, the words that have come to be known as the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Jesus talks about how we should do good to others:  giving to those in need and showing compassion even to our enemies.

            The second passage is an instruction from Paul.  Verse one says, as Christians we are called to live “a life worthy of our calling.” Paul lays out the choice we must make, especially when facing challenging times.  We can live, as v. 31 says, with bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling and malice, OR we can choose the way of Christ, which is kindness. Be kind to one another, Paul says. Be kind to one another.  The first verse of chapter 5 sums it all up, with the word “therefore” letting us know, this is the main point, the reason we act with kindness:  “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us.”  When we act with goodness and kindness, we are imitating God and demonstrating the goodness and kindness of Christ. 

            There’s a poem attributed to the 16th century nun and reformer, Teresa of Avila:

            Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

            Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.

            Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.

            Yours are the hands with which he blesses the world...

            Christ has no body now on earth but yours.2

            As the Body of Christ, we have a compelling reason to act with goodness and kindness:  because these are ways we let our light shine, so that others can see who God is.   

            You’ve heard of the Random Acts of Kindness movement, that emphasizes the importance of doing good deeds for others. As Christians, our acts of kindness should not be random, but deliberate.  Intentional.  We should always be looking for ways we can let our light shine through goodness and kindness to others.

            As challenging as the last 18 months have been, throughout the pandemic there have been wonderful Christian acts of goodness and kindness.   I asked church members via email and Facebook what acts of goodness and kindness people have experienced during the pandemic.  I got some wonderful responses, so many responses that I actually can’t share them all today and will have to save some for another time. When I use the person’s name, you’ll know that I have their permission to do so, while other people preferred to remain anonymous.  I hope that you will be as inspired and uplifted as I was by hearing these stories. 

            Jade Rosario shared about losing both of her parents in December, and how much she appreciated all the kindness shown to her by the church, and especially her friend Lora who took care of their dog, brought meals, and even left Christmas presents for them.

            Kim Stokes wrote, “Leigh Ellen Baca, Edie Rutz, Denise Richards, and Erin Barndt-Orlando put together care packages for teachers in our congregation.  They came at a time when I was feeling very beaten down and drained from teaching during the pandemic.  It was a wonderful surprise, gave me a smile, and meant so much to be seen and appreciated.” 

            Patricia McKee shared that when her husband, Jim, went to get his COVID vaccine, he was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to him by the entire hospital staff and crew of volunteers. Their kindness was so striking that while he was there, Jim witnessed a spontaneous round of applause erupt for the workers.           

            Sue Munson related how challenging it was to find a vaccine appointment. Finally, a friend who also had been unable to get an appointment called and said, “Get on the Safeway website right now!  They have the vaccine!”  “Well,” Sue said, “I did and got an appointment that week.  My friend could have kept this information to herself but she shared it as quickly as she could.  As a result, we both could begin a safe return to post-COVID life.”

            One church member shared that her 96-year-old father in an assisted living center was confined to his room and not allowed visitors.  The facility’s rules were that residents were allowed one Skype call per day.  But the workers at her dad’s facility knew he had five children, all of whom wanted to talk with him. Without ever complaining, the workers allowed each of those Skype calls to happen, and she said, “I was so very grateful for those workers’ kindness.”

            A couple in our church purchased new living room furniture and planned to donate the old furniture to the Habitat Restore, only to find that COVID had changed Habitat’s policies.  The staff could not enter the home to get the furniture; they would have to move it into their garage or driveway. The couple did not know what to do, since they could not move the furniture themselves, and they had not found a solution when the delivery people arrived with their new furniture.  Much to their surprise, when they explained their dilemma, the delivery people were kind enough to take all the old furniture out to their garage before moving in the new items. “It all was made so easy thanks to the kindness of the two delivery workers,” the church member said.

            Gene Barndt shared several examples of kindness: He said Jim Kimberly called him two or three times a month just to talk. Mary White made a mask for him.  Several people e-mailed from time to time just to chat.

            And in turn, Gene himself performed these acts of kindness for others:  “Prayed every day for those in the congregation fighting cancer.  Called or e-mailed several church family members living alone to keep in touch. Repaired a neighbor’s broken lawn furniture. Gave my barber a check for all the haircuts I missed during the pandemic.”

            Jill Dattel has a friend who works in a psychiatric hospital, which was in desperate need of masks. Jill said, “I put the word out, and two generous MPC ladies, [Rae Brady and Christy Tayler,] made masks to send to my friend. I am forever grateful to these ladies for their outreach, support, and kindness during a very scary and difficult time.”

            Pat Hodgdon shared that when visiting Charlene and Brad Bradley, she saw a table on their front porch with bottled water, candy and snacks, and a sign for delivery drivers to help themselves, thanking them for their work during the pandemic.  “I thought it was such a kind expression of gratitude,” Pat said. “I’m sure the delivery people appreciated it!”

            Lisa Faust had has an 82-year-old neighbor who was due for his second COVID vaccine, but could not get out of his half mile, curvy, hilly driveway through the woods because of a huge snowstorm.  Lisa said, “My husband Tom took action and went to his place, cleared about 2 feet of snow and got him to his appointment in our 4-wheel drive jeep over the treacherous, icy North Mountain.”

            Another neighbor ran out of wood to heat his home, so they not only took some of their own wood, they then sourced enough firewood to last until spring and used their ATV to shuttle it right to the man’s backdoor.       

            Lisa was quick to point out they also were the recipients of kindness; they had many folks call to check on them during the winter, and an older couple in their neighborhood were kind enough to leave canned goods and fresh produce in their mailbox.

            Pam Shriver talked about something that I know many of you participated in: a parade for one of our members.  The place where Stephanie lives had strict COVID protection policies, and Stephanie really was missing her church family. So for Stephanie’s birthday this past fall, church members organized a car parade with a Hawaiian theme to lift her spirits.  Members decorated vehicles with leis, signs, grass skirts, and there was even a palm tree on one vehicle.  “Members of the staff joined Stephanie outside, and as the cars looped by they honked, played music, and shouts of “Happy Birthday” filled the air.”  Pam said, “What a smile!  Or should I say smiles.  Stephanie was smiling the whole time; but so were we,” and the parade cheered up the staff as well.  “An act of kindness that was intended for one [ended up] touching many,” she said. 

            Andrea Druetzler, who has been battling cancer and other health problems, shared several acts of kindness:  “Mary White cleaned our house several times,” she said.  “MaryJo VanWingerdan, Mary White, Mary Langley and Mary Monisqo hired a cleaning crew to clean our house.  Our former deacon Pam Shriver and current deacon Mary Langley have regularly checked to see how we were doing and if we needed anything.  Pastor Dawn for calling us and praying for us.  The congregation sending many uplifting calls and messages. And thanks to all for their prayers.”

            And one final story from Charlene Bradley. She shared, “Over the years I’ve learned a lot about goodness and kindness in our Stephen Ministry program, as I watch Stephen Ministers sharing care, kindness, and love.”  “After spine surgery,” she said, “my husband became the care giver - with love, patience, and kindness. The surgery did not take away the constant pain in both legs, so his care extended by months. We could not go to church or physically see our friends because of the pandemic, so we really missed the contact and fellowship. I wasn’t expecting the overwhelming show of goodness and kindness from family, friends, and our MPC family. We received cards, emails, calls, food, and continuing prayers.” Through these things, she wrote, “I knew that Jesus was telling me, I’m still here looking out for you. Goodness, kindness, and love stemming from the heart of God through Jesus and my friends.... has shown me personally, the goodness and kindness that comes from the heart of God through Jesus to those in need of love and kindness,” she wrote.           

            My friends, I am so thankful for the way you have been shining the light of Christ for others.  During a challenging time, your acts of goodness and kindness have been a witness to God’s love.  You have practiced the Golden Rule, following Jesus’ words to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

            It’s like the song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  To me, that sums up the Christian life.  Our loving actions bring light to people who might be in a dark place---the light of encouragement, friendship, hope, and love, letting them know they are not alone, that God is with them.

            So in our summer tune up, let’s make sure our headlights work.  Let’s be intentional about finding ways to act with goodness and kindness, because God is so good, so loving, so kind; whenever we show goodness and kindness, we are bearing witness to who God is, shining the light of Christ.  In the name of God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, Amen.

Notes

  1. Source unknown.
  2. Although the poem is widely attributed to Teresa of Avila, with credit given to her by

     Brian McClaren, who set the poem to music, there is some debate about whether she

     actually wrote the words.  Some have attributed the words to a Methodist minister

     Mark Guy Pearse, who was then quoted by a Quaker medical missionary named Sarah

     Elizabeth Rowntree.  Source, The British Friend, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1892, p. 15. 

     brianmclaren.net/archives/blog, web.

Rev. Dawn M. Mayes

Manassas Presbyterian Church

Manassas, Virginia

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