To Do What Is Good

Have a blessed Memorial Day celebration!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth Ministerial Grounds, Pond Street
Rehoboth, MA
5/25/2014

1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

To Do What Is Good

So I am not going to lie – I spent a solid 25 minutes last night googling Mister Rogers quotes when I was stuck trying to figure out how to start my sermon.

When you first read it, this passage from 1 Peter sounds really complicated – the author is kind of long-winded and convoluted and rambles on a bit about suffering and conscience and sanctification. But as I read it over and over again yesterday, I started to widdle some of the wordiness away and realized that perhaps it was not as complicated as it first sounds. In fact, I think that the core of what the author is saying is that we should just be good people.

(Hence me looking for Mister Rogers quotes, because – let’s face it – “we should just be good people” is pretty much the core of what Mister Rogers spent his life teaching as well.)

First of all, I think it is important to remember that there is a huge difference between us as a community reading this passage of scripture today and the community that this letter was originally addressed to. 1 Peter was addressed to Christians living in the northern half of the peninsula of Asia Minor (what is now Turkey) during the end of the first century. Christians were being persecuted. Their lives were at stake. The author was telling them to push forward in their faith, even if meant oppression or death. There is a sense of intentional urgency in this letter that we do not necessarily feel or understand today when it comes to how we express our beliefs and our faith.

That being said, I still think we have a lot to learn from this letter. The author was talking about suffering and fear and defense, because this community was under religious attack and those were the (very real) things that Christians were experiencing at the time. But if you take that out of the equation for a second, what you essentially have is the author saying to this community, “You have been dealt a very difficult hand of cards, but it is still so very important to simply do what is good and be true to who you are.”

And I think that is a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

Here is what jumped out at me when I picked apart this passage:

“Who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?”
“You are blessed.”
“Do it with gentleness.”
“Keep your conscience clear.”
“Baptism saves you.”

Life is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, excitement and challenges. We cannot always control the hand of cards that we will be dealt, but we can control how we will respond to them. We can face conflict and still be good people. We can face challenges and still make good choices. We can be eager to do what is good, we can defend ourselves with gentleness and we can live out the promises made to us in baptism.

Jesus said in this morning’s gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He said these words right before he was betrayed and crucified; this was one of his final prayers for us as his earthly life was coming to a close. But he knew that this would not always be easy for us. And that is why he made sure that we would never be alone.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” {John 14:15-17}

We are never alone in this world. Yes, as human beings we will experience loneliness and sadness and tragedy and sorrow, but we will never be alone – Jesus made sure of that. God’s spirit is alive and at work here on earth. Sometimes we see it in tangible ways and sometimes it is unexplainable. But it is always there – I really do believe that. And we can use that spirit to help us live out this call that the author of 1 Peter gives to us to do what is good and to be true to who we are.

The second verse of this morning’s passage says, “But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.” The author said this – “but even if you do suffer” – because the Christian community was suffering. But there are two parts to this sentence – the first part is “but even if you do suffer” and the second part is “you are blessed.” I think the author wanted Christians to understand that – while they might face adversities and challenges in their lives – they would still be blessed.
And this is something we need to always remember as well.

Whatever you are facing in your life, know that you are blessed. You are blessed by a God who loves you and who is always with you. You are blessed by a God who shares both in your joy and in your sorrow. You are blessed with a God who rejoices with you and weeps with you. You may face earthly challenges, but you are blessed by a God who lives within you always and who – through the waters of baptism – showers his healing and renewing grace upon you.

It is fitting that we read this passage of scripture on Memorial Day Weekend, a time when we pause and remember those who lost their lives serving and protecting our country. Because I think the best way that we can honor our brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the line of duty is to be good people: To choose love over hate, peace over war, friendship over hatred and charity over greed. I think that we can celebrate this holiday by – as the scripture says – being eager to do what is good and also by remembering that the living waters of baptism draw us closer both to God and to one another.

So this morning I leave you with words of wisdom from Fred Rogers that I think are appropriate: “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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