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Be Eager to Do What is Good - Rev. Wm. Exner

Be Eager to Do What is Good

(1 Peter 3:13 – 22)

Things are shaping up to look like summer will really happen here in New Hampshire.  And right on time this Memorial Day Weekend. It’s supposed to hit 80 tomorrow, which is approximating the batting average of this season’s Red Sox lately or is that the earned run average of the pitching staff this week?  Ah well, we’re all just warming up – better days lie ahead.

 

I have always been a fan of this weekend each year.  The lilacs are fragrant and give the breeze a sweet and welcomed scent. The birds are singing happily in the newly leaf clad trees. It’s a long weekend for many, which allows for some precious minutes to kick back and relax,  or maybe take in a ball game or finish a good book, or hop on your Harley and make a little noise. Did you know that New Hampshire has the highest number of motorcycles per capita of any state in the nation?

In today’s appointed Epistle from first Peter, the leader of the early church gave some great advice – wisdom you don’t have wait for until you meet Peter at the pearly gate - words you heard just a few minutes ago, St. Peter said, “…do what is good… and no matter what, you will be blessed.”  Do what is good and you will be blessed.

 Back about the time this church was built, in the 1860’s, the women of the South in these United States got together to do something profoundly good, they decided to go out to the thousands of gravesites created by the carnage of the Civil War and they decorated the graves of their fallen sons and husbands and brothers and friends. Yes, they did a good thing.

Well,  word of this good thing the Southern women did caught on. And in 1868 General John Logan issued a general order to place flowers on every grave in the Arlington National Cemetery, Union and Confederate alike. It was a great and good idea, an act to promote national reconciliation at the time.

 However, there was not a little resistance to this good action at first. Some Southerners didn’t want Northerners graves decorated and some Northerners didn’t want the graves of Southerners honored either. The South actually refused to recognize this special day for several years. But like the Good Book said today,”Do the good and do not be intimated by resistance … if you suffer for doing what is right you are blessed.”  And, yes, there was a lot of ranker and stress about instituting this national day at first, and for some time, until 1918, right after World War I when the day was expanded to a three day holiday to honor all U.S. casualties and not just those of the Civil War. And that change helped the South get on board with what they had actually begun 50 years earlier. It just took that long to accept the fact the GOOD must apply to everybody, not just to your own peer group. Be eager to do what is good… and stick with it even when the going gets rough.  That’s good advice from the earliest Christian community – from St. Peter- that continues to bear fruit to this day.

Now, not everyone calls on their faith and courage to help them do what is good. Some start off on the right foot but, when there is resistance or push back, well, they back off and the same old stuff just continues in the world and nothing changes for the good. It takes courage and faith to do the good, the kind Jesus had.

Imagine if the townspeople and churches had not come out in protest in Wolfboro last week when the Commissioner used racial slurs to denigrate the President.  What if they had not followed the call to stand for the good?  The result would have been tacit approval of disrespectful racism, as though it’s OK for us denigrate the character of those with whom we may not agree.  Imagine if no-one stood up for the good to insist that bullying must stop or to say that reasonable gun ownership practices are necessary in our society, or to call for ecological responsibility, or to advocate for an end to the death penalty? Or to push for health care for all God’s children?   “Do not fear… be eager to do what is good no matter the suffering you might endure for it”  That’s what the Bible says. And it’s right. In the end, no matter the resistance, it is better to err on the side of the good. For in the long run that’s where true blessing is to be found.

In today’s Gospel reading you heard Jesus say to His disciples what He says to you today, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  You will go about things the way I would in life, He said. If you really care. And if you recall your scripture, Jesus did us all a favor by condensing the 10 Commandments into one great command, as He called it, “You shall love God with all your heart, … and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If you love me,  you will keep my commandment. That’s what the Man said.

This Memorial Day Weekend let’s be counted among those who will call upon our love for Christ and be eager to do what is good.  And when we sense push back or disapproval for trying to do the good for God’s sake, let’s remember what else Jesus said in that lesson today. He said, when you do the good and loving things you are never ever alone.  I’ve got your back. The Holy Advocate is with you - the Spirit of the strength of God – it is in you to call on - to be right there for you through thick and thin.’

My hat’s off to old General John Logan for being steadfast and not backing down to resistance when he asked that all the soldier’s graves be decorated with fresh flowers in 1868. And my hats off to those legislators in Concord this week who tried to end the Death Penalty even though to no avail this time. Next time! Next Time! And my hat’s off to you whenever you are eager to do what is good and are willing to ask God’s help to get it done, no matter how long it takes, no matter how challenging the task. For this is precisely how the new day will be won, the day that those who have sacrificed for us had  hoped for will come to pass, the days ahead where our families and nation will feel safe,  and liberty and happiness will be within reach for all God’s people because we sought the Good.

Let us pray: Dear God, inspiration of our hearts and healer of the nations; Look with favor upon us as we remember and appreciate those who sacrificed their lives for the principles of freedom, equality, and the pursuit of happiness upon which this great nation was founded.  Hear our prayer for veterans, their families, and friends.  Enable their considerable sacrifices to forge a nation more secure, and a future brighter for their children and grandchildren.

This Memorial Day weekend we ask you also to uphold the many who suffered the loss of loved ones in times of war.  God bless and comfort them all their days as you guide and protect those on active duty.  And now dear God, lift up our hearts to nobler heights. Fill us with fresh hope, new life and commitment to this nation, that the sacrifices of those who fought, and the witness of those who prayed for peace will one day be matched by a fresh vision  for the world, taking us all closer to that great day when there will be war no more, and all shall dwell in harmony. Lord grant us the courage and spirit to be eager to strive for the good, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen