If my sermon yesterday sounded a little grumpy for someone just returning from a wonderful vacation, then you should know that the majority of the work was done before I left. Maybe that explains some of the edge. When I returned, refreshed and joyful, however, I still saw the value in preaching it. It's not that I've noticed a rise of malice and slander among our congregation, but that we're to "not make room for the devil" (Ephesians 4:27) and it feels like there has been a rise of anger and hardheartedness on a national and global scale. Thankfully there are counter-stories that show that kindness is not only still part of how our church lives and grows together, but how the country and world does.
There was a story this summer of a pitcher on a Little League team who struck out his friend on the final bat of a significant game and while his teammates rushed at the pitcher to congratulate him, he rushed past them to give the batter a hug and remind him that even more important than a final bat is friendship. There was the world's care and attention for the Thai soccer team trapped in that flooded cave. There is the on-going call for prayer and support for those fighting fires and floods and suffering through them. There are the continuous collections of supplies in our church, including the drive for school supplies for our community right now.
A singer concerned by the trends he is seeing wrote, "Let's make compassion in fashion again." I'm grateful to say compassion hasn't been out of fashion among our church, which leaves the preacher with a dilemma when he comes up to a passage like Ephesians 4:25-5:2. Does he assume we'll remain compassionate and kind and tenderhearted imitators of God and move on to some other topic or does he seek to emphasize these foundational parts of following Christ in an attempt to withstand that which tempts us away from them? To me there is too much at stake in our witness and faithful response to Jesus to just leave it all to inertia. As I concluded yesterday, "God knows we're imperfect, but that's no reason to not seek to imitate his perfection. It's worth a try. The world needs us to try."
Trying with you.