Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, January 29, 2017
Scripture Reference: Micah 6:1-8
Sermon: Spiritual Affective Disorder: Make My Day
Today we continue in our sermon series SAD, Spiritual Affective Disorder, in which we are acknowledging how often at this time of year our spirits are feeling down. Certainly weather is a factor with it being dark and gray, rather than having the energizing sun; not to mention snow and ice that keep us inside and isolated. Sometimes our own lives or current events can be factors that affect our outlook on things. Only there are things that counter all this, disciplines that can refocus us on God, and so in this series we are looking to those things that can lift our spirits to help us feel alive and engaged with God.
I have to admit, this week I found myself pulling out all the stops, trying all the things we have been reflecting on – music, watching things that are funny, prayers at the beginning of each day. I kept telling Joe and Deanna I was just in some sort of funk this week, feeling rather bleak and blah about things. It was in my struggles to get out of this rut that I found myself thinking about today’s reading from Micah. It is clear that things are not going well for Israel. A case can be made for how the rich are haughty and unjust. People in power are abusing their positions. It is clear, says the prophet, that the people have forgotten all God has done for them and how they are being called to live. It isn’t some show of allegiance God wants, like going to church. It isn’t our offerings that “buy” God’s favor. Rather in light of all that is going drastically wrong, Micah calls the people to simply remember and live as God has always asked of them: to live justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. This is all that God wants of us. It is the right response in the face of despair and times of trouble.
It is a powerful witness to a different reality, a different worldview that trusts in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Undeniably, it offers a positive message to the world, but it also has an incredible impact on us. All we have to do it think back on past month to realize the affect that living a just, kind life can have on us. It was a month ago that we were celebrating Christmas, and a significant part of our celebrations is gift giving. It is fun to receive, but it is equally as fun to give gifts. There is the joy of knowing we have surprised someone with something unexpected or maybe brought relief in giving them something they needed. We feel good when we see their reactions of pleasure. But then there are all the ways we respond to our neighbors with gifts for families, hats and mittens. For many Christmas is a time when they feel closest to God, a true connection, because not only are they remembering what God has done for us, but we are responsively living in right relationship with God. Only what Micah reminds us of today is that this is how life is to be all the time. Each day we are to humbly walk with God, remembering all God has done, and responding by treating one another with kindness and justice. Each day holds opportunities for acts of kindness that not only leave us feeling good, but offer a witness to the world.
That is why a video taken in New York City went viral last January. It was taken by a bystander on the subway. A passenger noticed a homeless man shivering without a shirt, and he went over literally taking off the shirt he was wearing and giving it to him as well as a hat! Only he also noticed the man didn’t look well. He asked if the gentleman needed a hospital, and by all appearances took him. Only no one really knows because no one saw anything beyond that moment, but that one act spoke loudly. It reminded all of us of the good in humanity, and more importantly the good in us, the potential in us. Stories like this leave us feeling better about the world.
Micah reminds us that our own acts of kindness are rooted in what God has done for us. We look to share what we have been given. Readers Digest shared the story of Leslie, who was checking out at the grocery store and the total was $12 more than she had. As she started to unload the groceries, the man next in line offered $20. The woman, “Please don’t put yourself out,” to which the man replied, “Let me tell you a story. My mother is in the hospital with cancer. I visit her every day and I bring her a bouquet of flowers. I went this morning, and she got mad at me for spending more money on flowers. She demanded that I do something else with that money. So, here, please accept this. It is my mother’s flowers.”
Or there is the story of Jamie who remembers when his parents were going through a divorce. His mother was always worrying over bills, money for groceries. It was around that time that she started finding boxes of food outside her door every morning. It went on for months, until she found a job. They never knew who left all the groceries, but they never forgot it.
We all have the capacity to fill our days with acts of kindness. Sometimes it means just slowing down enough to let a car in front of you or holding a door. Sometimes it means just noticing someone who needs a helping hand, and other times it can be thinking of things you can do for another person. Maybe it is someone you know and maybe it is a stranger, but even just the planning, thinking about what you can do to brighten someone’s day, the impact you can have on them, can be enough to lift your own spirits. It is amazing to discover all the things we can do for one another.
Carrie is a teacher who was given 40 $1 bills for her 40th birthday. Her friend told her to do something creative with the money. She remembered her dad. Every day, even when he was in the hospital with cancer, he chose to be kind. 17 years later Carrie’s mom is still receiving letters from nurses because of the impact her father’s kindness had on them.
Carrie wanted to teach her students to be kind so she gave each one of them $1 from her $40 birthday gift. She challenged them to make a difference. She was flooded with stories. One student bought a dollar store stuffed animal and visited a stranger at the hospital. Another bought coffee for another teacher. One student who is an avid slushie fan left the dollar the slushie machine for someone else to enjoy the treat. Some money was left at the library copy machine. Other students combined their money to buy a Walgreens gift card and gave it to someone in the nursing home. Carrie’s students discovered there were countless ways to be kind and to impact the world for the better, and there was excitement and joy as they shared their stories with one another.
There is a lot happening in the world that can bring our spirits down, leaving us feeling negative and concerned about things, but we have a lot of power to change that. Micah reminds us we can shape the world for the better by what we do for others – how we act with justice and show kindness. We can experience for ourselves the joy of being in right relationship with God, letting God guide us every day. Can you imagine what a difference it could make if each one of us made a commitment to do one kind thing each day this week alone? That’s over 400 signs, witnesses we can bring to the community and there is no telling what the ripple effect it might have. What we do know, though, is our own spirits will be lifted and full of joy, for we will be living the life God calls us into – to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.