The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.”
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We gather this afternoon for the annual celebration of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme for this year, “They showed us unusual kindness” finding its origins in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 27:18 – 28:10).
Fr. James, Director of the Graymoor Institute wrote that “as we gather throughout the world to pray for the unity of Christians we are reminded of the importance of need for “unusual kindness.” And I think we are called to show unusual kindness towards one another now more than ever, especially now in a world where separation and division are so painfully present, and hinder the quest for unity – Christian or otherwise.
We hear people from all walks of life, from all political persuasions, from all faith traditions and incomes lamenting the state of our nation and the world. Each day, we watch or read the news it would appear we are in some kind of battle for dominance where opponents spew hatred, innuendos and outright lies against one another. Over the top rhetoric, slanted truths and one-sided posturing whether in politics or social attitudes are leading us down a dangerous path. We risk seeing one another in opposition rather than in unity and worse yet we dehumanize one another. We are failing to see and hear one another and have forgotten the intrinsic value of one another. Human dignity becomes a victim. And yet God’s hope for the world continues as we the churches and people of all faiths come together to form a prayerful witness for not only for Christian unity but for God’s wish “that they all may be one.”
Our focus for this morning is on kindness. According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, “Kindness is the state of being that includes the attributes of loving affection, sympathy, friendliness, patience, pleasantness, gentleness and goodness.” It mirrors those qualities found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he wrote: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Kindness is a quality shown in the way a person speaks and acts in large example and in small encounter. For all of us sitting here this morning, we know the importance of Kindness. And we know that it only takes a moment to speak a word of kindness to someone. It costs us nothing. It brings healing to a wounded or grieving soul. A simple word of thanks, a greeting on the street, a nod of approval perhaps, acknowledging for the briefest of moments that we are one with another in their time of need.
And yet kindness seems small, somehow. As virtues go, it’s not big or flashy. It’s not controversial. I dare say none of us clergypersons have gotten into trouble for preaching on love and kindness. Kindness is grace filled and incredibly simple, yet, any small act of kindness can make a huge difference in the lives of others. We can all, if we think even for the briefest moment, remember a time when someone was kind to us. From childhood to adulthood our life paths are intersected with moment after moment of acts of unusual kindness.
Jesus throughout the gospels taught the importance of kindness: In word and example he demonstrated biblical kindness. Wherever the gospels note that Jesus “was moved by compassion,” that inner state of God centered love was always followed by an outward act of kindness to benefit those where were hurting or were demeaned. Example after example for people then and we, two thousand years later to emulate.
But biblical kindness is harder and much more intentional that a simple surface offering.
It requires a deep-rooted kindness of heart and intentional action towards people we know, and people we don’t know. It requires our being kind to people who test the limits of our ability to love, unappreciative or undeserving, even those who have hurt us—and to be kind consistently, at all times and in all places. The kindness God wants from us is not simply a random event but a sustained love for all, an ongoing, essential and enduring part of our character.
And this “God centered character” is developed over time, when over and over in our life we reach out to offer help to another in the touch of a hand, a meal for someone who is hungry, a cup of water. Small acts of kindness, actions which over time become part of the very fabric of who we are, ingrained in our being. If we live with kindness, we learn to be kind.
And then the words of Scripture we hear throughout our lifetime, words that shape our attitudes and actions come flooding back; In Ephesians: “Be kind to one another.” From Colossians: “Clothe yourselves with kindness.” From I Corinthians: “Love is kind.” And perhaps most importantly from Micah: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?”
Frederick Buechner (BEEK-NER) American novelist, preacher, and theologian in his book The Hungering Dark wrote: “As we move around this world and as we act with kindness, or with indifference or hostility toward the people that we meet, we are setting the great spider web atremble. The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”
Kindness has a ripple effect, spreading out in ways we know and ways we can never know and perhaps that’s a good thing for us. Because unusual kindness comes from the heart, and it gives people reason to hope again. When we show genuine acts of kindness, God is glorified. His light shines through our words and actions lifting spirits and making us a little more human.
So Today and in the weeks to come, be challenged to show unusual acts of kindness to those that God leads across your path. Find the words or the connection that pierces your heart and awakens your soil. Speak the kind words that need to be said. And not only that, show them in your actions that you care. Look them in the eye and listen, really listen to their heart. In doing so, you are allowing God’s love to shining through you in every act of kindness.