A Blessed Bit of Good

Three or four. That's all the little guy was. Three or four, maybe five, and already out playing any chance he got. There was a little yard. 'Fenced, at what seemed great expense to his parents at the time. But the new dog figured out how to jump it in two days. And his very young master was climbing over by about two days after that. So lots of the playing was in the concrete back alley of that Baltimore row home. And some in the woods behind that. And then there were the all-dirt-and-rock ball fields beyond that. After dinner there was the front street for step ball, and catch when the cars weren't coming. And an old board across a single skate was good for a ride down the hill. But you better remember to lift your fingers off the bottom before you use it for a pivot in a turn. Lots of kids had shorter, thinner fingers for the skin they left on the pavement. In turning, a good technique was everything. Well, in such a life you can imagine skinned knuckles, knees and elbows were the norm. Scabs were like ribbons on a soldier's chest. And home-to-mama usually meant a tear or two and a plea for the box of Band-Aids – quick! And right about here is where she always said it. My mama, lookin' down on that raggedy little redhead, arms extended, saying, "Come on, come here, mommy'll kiss it and make it all well." And right about there, this little guy of three or four would look back up, bleedy knuckles on bruised little hips and say, "That won't do a blessed bit of good!" Just for the record, and a few decades later, I'm here to say my mother was right! (As usual.) In fact, her solution was a sweet thing of Biblical proportion. After all, no less than the Apostle Paul says so. "Greet one another with a holy kiss," he says… and it will do a blessed bit of good indeed. In the church, in the family, in the school, in the community. Even in the world. Let's take a look.

Wanna do a blessed bit of good? Mend your ways and agree with one another. That's the Apostle's advice. Home, church, school, community; wherever folks are together they are often far apart. You don't need me to tell you that. The question is, by what gifts of the Spirit of Christ can we ever get beyond this? All Paul says at the end of this letter to his friends at Corinth is mend, change, heal your ways… and… agree with each other. 'Not very helpful. (This is kind of the spiritual version of take two aspirin and call me in the morning.) But this isn't all Jesus' servant Paul has to say, nor the only letter he's written on this subject. We probably possess only two of several letters Paul wrote to this Corinthian "church" of the early Christian movement. But we have enough to know they faced many of the same things we do. They were born from the same causes. And in Christ, require many of the same solutions. We can learn from this!

Corinth's Christians were surrounded by a sensual, sophisticated, sin saturated, me-first culture. Of course, we wouldn't know anything about that, would we? The result: they were mightily tempted to adopt the ways of the world. So to these very folks-he-advises-to-greet-each-other-with-a-holy-kiss, he says this. "Let me show you a better way." What follows we read too often at weddings and too rarely at the dinner table. We share them too rarely in our church boards. Maybe the politicians could learn a thing or two as well. Here's Jesus' way according to Paul. Love. (Christ says, "As I love you, so you ought to love one another.") Ok, what's it look like? Patient. (Try that, next time your beloved at home or on the phone has entered "Overshare over-drive" (gesture). Or here, when you ask the time, and I or others tell you how to build a clock. Kind. One of Jesus' followers in our time says, "Kindness is the rarest commonality of our age." Anne Arundel County Schools had our kids write about the kindest one they know. How touching, one of our children wrote about his own brother. 'Anybody writing that today about you? Not jealous. Paul knows if you have Jesus for your Savior, nothing anybody else has can compare. You and I have all we need. Arrogant, boastful and rude bat 0-3 at the ballpark where the team is coached by Christ himself! I confess I'd really like to share that thought with some of our leaders on both sides of the political struggles of the day. And get this. Wanna mend our ways? In the name of the graceful Savior who breaks the power of cancelled sin on a crude and cruel cross, don't insist on your own way. (After all, Jesus insists he is the way.) Don't keep score of who's been wrong. (30 years of counseling couples has taught me the most useful wedding gifts are an eraser and one of those dry boards that clean so easily to write sins on! 'Should be a rule, all family hurts are written here, never on our hearts! In the end, we endure in relationships, because we believe, hope and trust in Christ to see us through. This is how we mend. And agree. 'See, we don't have to hold the same views on everything to get along. We just have to share in one thing. The one who is able to keep us from falling (pt. X) and to present us as though we were faultless in the presence of God's own glory with rejoicing. (And in a diverse culture, ours or Corinth's, even if those we confront do not call on the same name, our calling to Christ can be sufficient for the other party too!)

Wanna know a blessed bit of good? Live in peace and the God of peace and love will be with you. Here too, Paul can help us find our way. Why? Because Christ has shown him. Peace proceeds from knowing who we are. It's a thing more powerful than all the weapons of the world. They are powerless against this wonder. (I really believe this. Ask me for more when we have more time. For now, consider…) Jesus begins by knowing each of us made in God's image. Not perfect, but good, very good. (Remember, John's Gospel says he oughta know; he was there from the start!) He proceeds by seeing that we are all prone to sin. "But to what shall I compare this crooked generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 'We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'" He weeps for us as for Jerusalem. 'Because "we do not know God's moment when it comes." And he concludes "Father, forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing!" If you and I can see the world like this, so much conflict fades in the faith that we're really all in the same boat together!

There's more. In the face of the cross and the empty tomb, there comes the gift of the Spirit. You remember. That's what we celebrated here last week so powerfully. The result? Each of us is to be honored for the gifts of the Spirit we possess and the place we fill in God's saving work. Some have written nations that trade don't make war on each other. Truer still, people do not, believers do not, churches and families do not destroy each other (body or soul) where they recognize each other's gifts. '`Present and needed for the good of all. So Paul reminds there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit. Each is given for the common good.
Wise counsel, truth-speaking, faith, healing, miracle working, prophecy, discerning spiritual health, communication. All inspired by one and the same Spirit, needed for the family of God as much as for the Church. "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?" Every argument is a kind of self-amputation. We're like the commercial where the fella's on the phone about to do surgery on himself, guided by the doctor over the phone. The voice over asks, "Is this a good idea?" In every conflict, we need to ask that too, in Jesus' name.

Wanna extend a blessed bit of Good? Greet each other with a holy kiss and make disciples of every nation. And Christ will always be with us, even to the end! Kisses come in all kinds. Mama's and pop's. Your sister's. (Don't go there!) Lovers'. Friends'. Kisses can betray. (Be careful in your garden, won't you?) They can bless. And they can heal. They really can. And they can restore and renew. Any quarreling couple who seals the night with a kiss has a much better chance that a new dawn brings a new day. (Paul said as much.) Kisses can be passionate. And they can be a covenant of care. The Bible knows every one of these. But it commends to us this one. The holy kiss. It's the one that says when we come together, "I belong to Christ, so I belong to you." It's the gesture that says when we part, "You don't go alone. I go with you. The Lord goes with us, too." The holy kiss may be given in our modern time with our lips, or our arms in embrace, or our hands in one another's here at church. Whatever its form its message is the same. "Take the name of Jesus with you." Christ himself commands, "To every nation." Look around when you move through your week this week. They're all here. Every nation and people are now our neighbors. We keep his great commission in our own neighborhoods… or not!

All for Jesus' sake, it's time to mend our ways, agreeing in the one essential of the soul: Christ the Lord. It's time we live in peace with those who are God's own. And see in them the Spirit's gifts. They make us whole. And by all means, it's high time we greet and gift each other with a holy kiss. Mom was right… it really will do an absolutely blessed bit of good!

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