“So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”
The Apostle Paul, Galatians 6:10
“. . . cease to do evil, learn to do good, . . . “
The Prophet Isaiah 1:16, 17
This past summer, my son, Christopher, and I attended a ballgame of our local AAA affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. They are the minor league team associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates and some of the young men now playing for the Pirates and the chance to compete in the World Series played in Indianapolis on their way to the major leagues. It was a fun evening. The Indians won and Christopher even bought my hot dog and peanuts. The night was most memorable, however, because of the conversation Christopher and I had on the way home.
Christopher is a college junior and needless-to-say, we don’t always see eye-to-eye on many matters. But on this night, he initiated a conversation I thoroughly enjoyed. It started out about how much fun it is to go to games together, which is something he and I have done quite a lot. But then our conversation took several turns and we covered many aspects of life. We discussed what he wants to do in regard to a career. He spoke about his understanding of faith. He also asked a lot of questions about family members that he doesn’t know very well. Then at one point in the conversation, Christopher said, “You know, Dad, sometimes I listen when you preach.” I said, “Well that’s good that sometimes you listen.” Christopher added, “Yeah, I mostly listen when you tell stories.” I replied, “I think it is easier for most people to listen to stories and that’s why Jesus told stories so much.” My son then asked me, “Do you know what I get from your sermons when I listen?” I honestly did not know if I wanted to hear the answer to that question, but I went ahead and asked, “What?” And he said, “Do good. That’s what I get from you when I listen. Do good.” Other than my wife, probably no one has heard more of my sermons than Christopher and if after twenty years of sometimes listening to my sermons, he can sum up all that preaching in those two words, “do good,” I’ll take it.
I thoroughly believe that the future strength of the church is to be found not first in “orthodoxy” which is adherence to correct beliefs, but in “orthopraxy” – the practice of right behavior or as I would put it “to do good.” The congregation I serve is one that has taken as its mission imperative the task of “thoughtfully and faithfully following Jesus.” Those five words form the core of who we are and how we try to engage the world. Following Jesus is not a passive endeavor. It means being involved with the world the way Jesus was and asks us to be. It means working to ensure that everyone has food to eat and clothes to wear and a place that they can call home. It means that our congregations are places that practice a deep sense of hospitality, not only welcoming all who come our way, but by finding ways we can actively be good neighbors in our communities. It means caring for the sick and the aged, giving voice to those who have been pushed to the edges of society. It means having a sense of grace and respect for all people, helping our world to become that beloved community of reconciliation and peace that it was created to be. Following Jesus means giving our lives so that others might have life.
Faith is an action oriented endeavor. I have always appreciated the wisdom of an old Chinese proverb, “It is much better to light a candle in the darkness, than to just curse the darkness.”
The media tells us about the overwhelming response that often occurs after a natural disaster or another kind of tragic event, such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon. It is wonderful that people respond to the real needs that arise during such times. But the good we are called to do and which needs to be done is not limited to tragic and catastrophic events. Every day there are real needs of struggling people that need to be met. Children who are hungry, families who need adequate shelter and access to health care, villages that need wells drilled for clean water, people living in nursing facilities who need someone to hold their hand on a lonely day. The list of needs goes on and on without end. Moses said to the Israelite people, “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hands to the poor and needy neighbor . . . .’”
The ways to help are numerous as well, Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International, Living Water for Clean Water, Week of Compassion, local food pantries, nursing facility volunteer, adult literacy programs, etc. and etc. There are numerous ways to be involved in the doing of good.
Of course, no individual nor single congregation can do all that needs to be done. But every individual and congregation can do some of the good that needs to be done in our communities and world. And whatever good any of us do makes a difference.
The last thing our world needs right now is a passive church or one that is focused only on adherence to a correct system of doctrinal beliefs. The world needs a church that is leading the way in respecting human dignity and worth, working for human equality, responding to human need, finding ways to take care of our planet that we share together. The world needs a church that is working to “do good.” May we strive to be that church.
Do some good today.