Friday, August 12, 2016

Kindling Kindness

Sermon given at United Church of Beloit July 31, 2016

July 31, 2016               Kindling Kindness           Pastor Carol P. Taylor

Ephesians 4:28-32
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Sermon series on depicted in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

this week's focus is Love is Kind.

I've been blessed this summer to officiate at 2 weddings. Both couples chose this passage as their scripture.
Specifically vss 4-8. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Amen.

This describes the love of God, a perfect love. This is what we hope for, yearn for. CS Lewis wrote there's a “God Shaped Hole' within our's where we yearn for that perfect love. We humans, while created in the image of God, are not perfect, so often times we love imperfectly. But we can aspire to love well, to love more perfectly. We can focus on what we love about each other, in marriage, in our families and at work and in the world! We can focus on the positive and set aside the rest. That's not always easy, but it is always worth while!

At the end of the wedding service I say.... Go forth from this place with the blessing of Christ's church. Be loving, patient and kind. And above all, forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you. This is based on the Ephesians passage.

this week's focus is Love is Kind. What does it mean to be kind?

Kindness is Paying attention to other people,
Their feelings, and what they need.

The Ephesians verses are part of a section wherein the readers..listeners are being reminded to live in the Word of God. The city of Ephesus in Bible times was a center for travel and commerce. It was a large city, on a harbor, with many temples to the various Greco-Roman gods and goddesses, especially Diana, Goddess of the hunt and moon. This chapter of the Epistle is a reminder to live NOT as those do who worship the pagan gods and goddesses! That those who follow the One true God, and God's son, can live in better ways, to honor God and each other!

Do not let Unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but what is helpful to build up! That's a strong message right there, isn't it!? Not griping and complaining but building up, helping, not tearing down. Get rid of bitterness, rage, anger...slander and malice. (and this was written 2000 years ago!)
Be kind and compassionate...forgiving one another.
These are things to strive towards. We aspire to be all these things, in order to live out that Divine Love that we know! It isn't always easy. It comes more naturally to many of us to gripe, or to put down someone else. But having compassion and care and kindness, goes so much further! (honey, not vinegar!)

In our passage, when it says Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, it means to not act out in ways that are NOT of God, in ways that are like the pagans. The Holy Spirit is one of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost. We are given the Spirit by Jesus when we have accepted him as Lord and Savior. The Spirit guides and empowers us! But acting in ways that are not Christ like cause grief. I find it interesting that the bible calls it grief. Not anger...

When I was a kid and did something wrong, and got caught...I remember my Mom would yell, rant and rave. My Dad though, never yelled. He was sad when I acted out, he was pained.... and that, so much more than my moms anger, made me straighten up and fly right, I would do anything to keep from seeing that grief in my Dad's eyes... So it is with the Holy Spirit, when we are unkind and impatient and unforgiving.

So how do we Kindle Kindness in ourselves and others. Because when we are kind to one another, it can spread! There are lots of ways we can be kind. It doesn't have to be some huge thing, little kindnesses count here! Sometimes a gesture that seems small can have a big effect!
And kindness has benefits to us as well as those to whom we are kind. Psychologists have found that there are emotional and even physical benefits, when we exercise kindness. Physical effects of kindness:
(Allan Luks and Peggy Payne have identified some of the physical effects of kindness in their publication "The Healing Power of Doing Good". }

These effects can include a greater sense of calmness and relaxation, which may also ease pain (from headaches to back pain) and may even help lower high blood pressure. They also suggest that other effects of kindness may increase your energy level and can even reduce excessive stomach acid. Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.
It almost sounds like a commercial for a magic pill doesn't it?! Wow how can I get some of this stuff!

So let's think about how to cultivate this within ourselves!
Author Richard Rohr shared a short meditation recently on his website.

Kindness..Loving Kindness as the Bible calls it....The quality is already within you, but if you don't choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving.
Begin by finding the place of loving kindness inside your heart (Christians might call this the indwelling Spirit).
Drawing upon this source of love, bring to mind someone you deeply care about, and send loving kindness toward them.
Now direct this love toward a casual friend or colleague, someone just beyond your inner circle.
Continue drawing from your inner source of loving kindness and let it flow toward someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, a stranger.
Remember someone who has hurt you or someone you struggle to like. Bless them. Send them your love.

Gather all these people and yourself into the stream of love and hold them here for a few moments.
Finally, let the flow of loving kindness widen to encompass all beings in the universe.
This practice can help you know--in your mind, heart, and body--that love is not determined by the worthiness of the object. Love is determined by the giver of the love. You are simply a conduit for the inflow and outflow of love.
Now that we've practiced this inwardly, it's time to share it outwardly.

“Every human interaction offers you the chance to make things better or to make things worse.” ― Barbara Brown Taylor

Many things we can do to show kindness. Hold a door, give a ride, Take out the trash without being asked! Smile and say hello to the other people taking a walk near the river...write a note or call someone you haven't talked to in a while.
at Aldi's leave your quarter in the cart for the next person, Letting the person with 3 items check out ahead of you. And be kind to the clerk while you are at it! (trust me, I worked retail, being kind to retail workers and wait staff is one of the biggest kindnesses you can practice!}

again... Barbara Brown Taylor calls this acknowledging the humanity of someone in these everyday interactions the ‘practice of encountering others’. Here’s her encouragement of this as a spiritual practice: ‘the next time you go to the grocery store, try engaging the cashier. You don’t have to invite her home for lunch or anything, but take a look at her face while she is trying to find arugula on her laminated list of produce.’ When the cashier looks at you while handing you your change, ‘all that if required of you is to look back’, she says. ‘Just meet her eyes for a second when you say thanks. Sometimes that is all another person needs to know she has been seen.’

And ask 'how are you?” then just sit and listen. People today are hungry for companionship. Our society now moves so fast, we so rarely make time to just sit and chat, to really listen to one another. Listening -really listening, means to hear what the other is saying, not just thinking about what my own response is going to be as soon as they stop to take a listen. And affirm what the other is saying, saying something like “it sounds like you are frustrated.” without launching into our own tale of woe. That can wait.

To be kind to others, especially someone we don't know, is living out our faith, living out the Love of God.

We love, because God first loved us. Love is a gift from God. When we act in loving kindness and show our love & compassion for others, we are living as God wants us to. We are giving thanks for the gifts of life and love and sharing those gifts with others. Because to love means to want to give. Just as God so loved the world, God gave his only Son, Jesus. Love and giving just naturally go together.
And Jesus, gave His live, for each of us. For even the ones we don't know ...yet.

So we can give a smile, a few minutes of our time, to bring loving kindness into someone's day. If we practice kindness every day, we may kindle kindness in others as well. Kindness could spread! May it be so!

Let us pray...

Loving God, guide us, through your Spirit to cultivate and practice kindness every day, sharing your Love, compassion, and forgiveness as we do. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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