The seed for today’s sermon was planted last Sunday when, during our prayer time, Ruth Dobson offered thanks for all that is good and beautiful in the world.
I am not, generally speaking, a “glass half full” kind of guy. By nature and by upbringing I am a pessimist and a cynic—a “bent paper cup more than half empty with a hole in the bottom leaking water drip by drip by drip” kind of guy. I don’t like that part of myself, particularly, but there it is.
So I need to be reminded, from time to time, that in spite of the world’s problems—and they are many and they are frightening and they may be insurmountable—in spite of the problems the Creation remains a beautiful place. There is goodness in nature, in our neighbors and in ourselves.
I need to be reminded, as Brother David said, that joy grows out of gratitude.
One of my all time favorite movies, and this will surprise you, is the old Disney classic “Pollyanna”—a movie that has gotten a really bad rap, in my opinion. Young Pollyanna is often criticized as a naive, childish, “everything is good and can’t we all get along” character.
But Pollyanna never says “everything is good”. What she says is “goodness can be found in everything”—if you look for it. She says, goodness can be found in the darkest of times and in the darkest of hearts—even in the heart of her proper but austere Aunt Polly Harrington.
Looking for the good—and celebrating it when you find it, Pollyanna believed, is what makes goodness grow. Gratitude blossoms into joy.
This is why St Paul said: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The seed for today’s sermon took root and began to grow on Tuesday when Kelly Brumm posted to her Facebook page the “Simple Formula for Living”.
The Simple Formula for Living invites us to take a step beyond the practice of looking for what is good and beautiful. Here we are invited to practice being good and beautiful; doing good. Because, as St Paul said in the passage Palmer read earlier, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self control”.
When you breathe in God’s Spirit, this is what you breathe out—peace, patience, kindness, goodness.
How hard can that be, really. “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it”, Pollyanna said, “you will”. She was quoting Abraham Lincoln.
I think the reverse of that saying is just as true. When you look for the good in people and for beauty in the world, expecting to find it, you will. And remember, celebrating the good and beautiful today makes it more likely the good and beautiful will be here tomorrow, in even greater supply.
We are genetically programmed, I believe, to nurture what is good and to care for and protect what is beautiful. We are, after, all, created in the image of God—who is the consummate source of all that is good and the tireless lover of all that is beautiful.
Looking for the good and the beautiful—seeing it and celebrating it and protecting it, nurtures this image of God in us. This is who we are created to be—people who take care of and celebrate this beautiful Creation.
And this is what it means to love—to love God with all our heart and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are called—urged by God, I believe, to practice random, and not so random, acts of kindness; to do good in order to encourage good in others. To celebrate beauty in order to encourage the protection of all that is beautiful.
I thought might be fun to experiment with this idea here this morning. So I have a question for you—a 2 part question. You can answer one, or if you’d like, both of these: In the last week, where have you seen goodness or kindness? Where have you seen beauty? (S)
As you listen to these experiences, pay attention to how you are feeling.