Sermon Text: Sunshine
Old preachers never die — we just go on and on and on...
I used to think that was funny. But I was young then.
When I came to St. Mark’s twenty-four years ago, I kind of looked like a kid. It helps in my line of work to appear venerable and wise. Since I was neither, I grew a beard. At least I could look more mature.
Eventually, the beard went white, so I shaved it off. My wife said, “Grow it back.” When I asked why, she said, “You have jowls now.” Ouch.
Now I really am an old preacher. I’m a grandfather. I’m not a kid — I’m an apprentice old guy.
So what kind of old guy will I be? There is a choice, you know. There are two kinds of old guys, and you’ve met them both.
First, there is Mr. Meany. Every kid in every American neighborhood knows where Mr. Meany lives. You better stay off his lawn and out of his way. He never has a kind word for anyone. He’s grumpy and opinionated. Sometimes he’s downright nasty. We have all met Mr. Meany at one time or another.
But there is another kind of old guy: Mr. Sunshine. We can all think of old guys like him, too. These old guys always smile. They usually have something funny to say. They are kind and generous. They help you look on the bright side of life. They are willing to give you a helping hand. And they make you feel good when they are around.
There are female equivalents, as we all know. Every kid in every American neighborhood knows where the witch lives. You better avoid her. She’s mean and nasty, and has a harsh tongue. She never has nice things to say.
But then there is Mrs. Fields. She’s the sweet lady who always says nice things to you. She gives you cookies. She’ll loan you her umbrella when it’s raining.
So there are two kinds of old guys and gals: Meany or Sunshine. And now I’m an old guy in training. I’ve got choices to make. I want to be Mr. Sunshine rather than Mr. Meany.
There is a famous line by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel. He said, “When I was younger, I used to admire intelligent people. Now that I am older, I admire kind people.”
Well, as a young guy, I was not as wise as Rabbi Herschel. My admiration was not for intelligent people as much as for sports stars and TV actors. But I have grown older, and, I hope, wiser. Now I really do admire kind people most of all.
And although I’m still working on it, I want to be Mr. Sunshine.
Jesus had two disciples who were kind of like Mr. Meany. James and John had such hot tempers that Jesus nicknamed them “the Sons of Thunder.” In today’s story from Luke, a Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus. So James and John say, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
Wow. I feel sorry for Jesus. There he is, trying to teach his disciples about compassion and forgiveness, and this is their reaction.
Well, we think Thunderboy finally got the message. Although James died young, there is a tradition that John grew to be an old, old man. And whenever he preached in church, he always said the same thing: “Children, love one another...children, love one another.” As I said, old preachers never die — they just go on and on and on...
Finally, the members of his church asked him, “Father John, why don’t you ever say anything else?” He said, “Do this alone, and it is enough.” Mr. Sunshine.
Now, I think the apostle Paul had a long way to go in this area. But he wrote to the church in Galatia about what he called “the fruit of the Spirit.” He says that God’s presence in human lives will cause these fruit to grow: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Those qualities don’t grow overnight. It takes a long time to become Mr. or Ms. Sunshine. I grew up along Lake Ontario, in fruit-farming country. My childhood home was surrounded by orchards of apple and cherry trees. I knew, even as a child, that it takes a long time and a lot of work to produce the very best fruit.
They call Jesus the carpenter, but they could also call him the gardener. By following him, we’ll show the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
It takes time and effort of course — by us as well as by Jesus the gardener. But that’s the kind of old guy I want to become. Join me?
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