Thinking and Doing

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Collect for Proper 4 gets down to the nitty gritty of the life of discipleship.  First, we recognize that it is from God alone that all good proceeds.  This is a statement of profound faith, which is easily over looked as simply another way of opening a prayer.  Instead of “Father God” or “Almighty God” or even “Loving God,” this Sunday, we make the bold claim that the God we worship is the God from whom all good proceeds.  This raises the question, however, proceeds where?  If goodness is flowing out of God, to what or whom is it flowing in?  Here’s where the petition comes, we pray that that goodness might impact us by way of our thoughts and our actions: “may we think those things that are right, and… do them…”

It isn’t often that the Collect for the Day easily meshes with the Scriptures appointed for that Sunday, but Proper 4, Year C is an exception.  This Sunday we have one of Jesus’ lesser known resurrection (1) miracles – raising the widow’s son at Nain.  After healing the Centurion’s slave at Capernaum, Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd made the 25 mile journey to another small town called Nain.  As they arrived at the city, they were met at the entrance by another crowd of considerable size headed in the opposite direction, to the cemetery to bury a widow’s only son, and it is here that we see the Collect of the Day lived out in the life and ministry of Jesus.


Luke tells us that Jesus saw the woman and had compassion on her.  The story could have easily been over then and there.  Jesus could have seen her, felt sorry for her, and walked right on by.  He could have simply thought the right things, even felt the right feelings, but have done nothing about it.  But Jesus did something.  His compassion motivated him to action.  While still seeing this grieving woman, he all but commanded her to stop crying, risked ritual uncleanliness, reached his hand out, touched the funeral bier, and commanded the man to rise.

The world around us is full of opportunities to think the right things and feel the right feelz, but without the guiding of God to do the right thing, we fall short as disciples of Jesus by failing to be the answer to our own prayer.  Do you feel angry about the ongoing rash of gun violence in our country?  Have you done anything about it?  Do you feel compassion for the hungry in your town?  Have you done anything about it?  Do images of refugees hiding in the caves of the Nuba Mountains break your heart?  Have you done anything about it?

All good proceeds from God, and as disciples of Jesus, our job is to help unleash that good on the world through works of compassion, mercy, advocacy, and justice seeking.  To stop at thinking or feeling is to fall short of the fullness of the call to be Christ’s body in the world.  What is God calling you to do?

(1) There will be some who object to calling this a resurrection story, but the Greek word Jesus uses to command the man to “rise” is the same word the Angels use to tell Mary that Jesus is risen from the dead.

The Practicality of Faith

One of the critiques that I hear about my sermons is that they are not as practical as they could be.  This is a fair critique.  My preaching style is open ended.  I like to take the congregation down a path on the journey of faith and invite them to consider how it might apply to the specifics of their own lives.  I choose to do this, in part, because by the time I’ve preached at 7:30, 9, and 10:45, posted the sermon on the Saint Paul’s website and here on my blog, I’ve reached a very wide variety of people.  To offer a practical suggestion as to how a 30 something parent of young children might apply the call to love one’s neighbor will mean that I’m missing out on a myriad of ways in which teenagers, single 30 somethings or retiring boomers might accomplish the same call.

Still, I find it to be a fair critique and from time to time, I try to offer very specific ways in which the reader or listener might be able to live out the call of God as heard through the exposition of scripture.  This week, while I will probably preach the Sermon on the Mount’s bit about “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” I’m drawn to think about the practicality of faith for the 21st century Christian trying to live out the love your neighbor intent of this Sunday’s passage from Leviticus.

How do we take the very contextual call to leave the edges of our fields unharvested and bring it forward 2,500 – 5,000 years?  What are the fruit of our vocations that we can leave open for the needy?  For some, it means making sure that some sort of time is given to non-profit board work; a specific example being a CPA serving as treasurer of a non-profit board.  For others, it means doing pro bono work in their field of expertise; for example, a doctor seeing patients in the local migrant farmer clinic.  Still others might offer their hobby as a means to empower the stranger: the pilot who uses her time and expense to help patients get to appointments through Angel Flights.

In order for the life of faith to make any sense in the world, it has to be practically lived.  It has to move from concept to reality.  It has to shape the experiences of everyday.  The Leviticus lesson this week invites us to think very specifically about how our faith might impact the most vulnerable of our neighbors.  How do you live out the practicality of faith?