Begin by listening to Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzNHuGqoMc
This past Tuesday I couldn’t sleep, so I began counting how many sermons I’ve preached. Some people count sheep, I count sermons. 36 years of pastoring times 52 sermons a year. For the past 22 years, I’ve only preached three times a month here, but I was almost always preaching somewhere else, so it still averages out to 52 sermons a year. 36 x 52 =1,872 sermons. It takes me, on the average, about twelve hours to write a sermon, so that’s 22,464 hours spent in sermon preparation. If I had driven a car at 60 miles per hour for 22,464 hours, I would have gone 1,347,840 miles. Or to the moon and back 5 ½ times. No wonder I take a nap every Sunday after I preach.
These past several months, we’ve been thinking about what it means to be grown-up, and the characteristics of grown-up people. We defined a grown-up not by their age, but as someone who is consciously aware of their feelings, and takes responsibility for their decisions and actions. We’ve said grown-up people possess certain qualities, the first being self-regulation. They don’t need someone or something outside of them forcing them to be a certain way. They self-regulate. We said grown-up people practice perspective, possessing the ability to give situations and circumstances their appropriate weight.
Grown-up people delay gratification. They come down always on the side of justice, and labor to create societies whose blessings flow to all and not a few. We’ve said grown-up people know how to be angry and use anger constructively, not destructively. Then we said grown-up people self-differentiate. That is, they have the ability to be in emotional contact with others while still being autonomous in their own emotional functioning. Incidentally, this is how families stay together when one family member votes for Donald Trump and the other for Joe Biden. Self-differentiation. Remaining connected, while still being who you are without apology. A few weeks ago, we said grown-up people create beauty, and appreciate beauty when they encounter it. And just last week, we said grown-up people appreciate and practice nuance. They are able to think beyond black and white distinctions and absolutes. They are able, between polar opposites, to envision a wide range of possibilities, categories, and attitudes.
Now we arrive at the 10th characteristic. Ten isn’t a magical number, so there might be more traits, depending on how creative we get. This next trait seems so obvious, so evident to me, I almost hesitated to include it. But then it occurred to me that what is obvious to some isn’t obvious to others. Don’t we often look at other people and what they have done and say to ourselves, “What in the world were they thinking?” What is obvious to us, might not be obvious to others. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid or ignorant. It just means our experiences are different, and we learn at different speeds.
Mozart wrote his first piece of music at the age of five, and I’m 59 and can’t play Chopsticks on the piano. What is clear to some, is hazy to others.
But here it is, the 10th characteristic. Grown-up people are good. That goes without saying. Wouldn’t you think? Especially for people of faith. But for as long as I can remember, some Christians have diminished the importance of simple goodness. I’ve often heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter how good you are, how kind you are, how compassionate you, if you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior, you’re going to hell.” That is utter and complete nonsense. I won’t even address the heaven/hell issue, because who knows what happens to us after we die. I know with some degree of certainty that after I die, my body will be cremated, the ashes spread in the upper meadow of our farm, and Joan can finally relax without me saying, “Hey, while you’re up, can you get me a Diet Pepsi.” But heaven or hell? Who knows whether those things are even real.
But this dismissal of goodness, what’s with that? It doesn’t matter how good you are? Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say goodness doesn’t matter, that decency and kindness don’t matter. Of course, they matter. What is happening in America today is because of an absence of goodness, a deficit of decency and kindness. Goodness has always mattered. It matters still. We neglect it at our own peril.
An unanticipated blessing of this virus has been our ability to use media and video in our worship we might not have otherwise used. This means that rather than describing goodness, I can show you the story of a good man. Enjoy.
When you get where you’re going, turn back around and help the next one in line. Always stay humble and kind.