Powered by Kindness

February 26, 2020

Church of the Servant, Wilmington, NC

Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Listen here (transcript below):



Sermon Transcript:

We heard words from the Prophet Joel this evening. He was speaking to a people in the midst of the ruin of their country. “Blow the trumpet in Zion! Sound the alarm on my holy mountain!”  I heard an echo of this proclamation in a video that was shared by our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry this week, sounding an alarm.

Joel put it this way, “Yet even now says the Lord, ‘Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. Rend your hearts, not your clothing.’”

In the same way, Bishop Curry reminded and shared this feeling of lament saying, “In times of great national concern and urgency, people of faith have returned to ancient practices of repentance, prayer and fasting as a way of interceding with God on behalf of their nation and the world.” Citing the profound division and genuine crisis of national character, not being a matter of political partisanship, and acknowledging the diverse political affiliations and positions of he and his fellow Christian leaders in this country, but a shared deep concern “for the soul of America.”

Curry then shared their collective commitment saying that they would be observing this Lent as a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance on behalf of our nation, with continued fasting each Wednesday until the Wednesday before Advent. Not the Wednesday before Easter. The Wednesday before Advent, which is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, to be clear. That is a commitment for them collectively to do this fast on Wednesdays on behalf of the soul of this nation.

Now, one might argue that this proclamation by Bishop Curry could run counter to Jesus’ warning not to practice piety before others, but I contend that unless each Wednesday they’re taking selfies and posting them of their Facebook page, then the proclamation isn’t practicing their piety. I trust they will do it faithfully.

You see, during this time of Lent and during times of crisis, we’re called on to do something more. In their case, they are doing it collectively in response to their collective concern.

During Lent, Jesus calls us to do more, though certainly Jesus would not have framed it in the church tradition that we have adopted. Yet there is a call for a time of prayer, a time of repentance and a time of self-sacrifice, in whatever way that may come.

But I contend there’s another practice that we could all benefit from during Lent and beyond. That is the practice of kindness.

We’ve heard the phrase practice random acts of kindness. Let me suggest that this Lent, that instead we practice intentional acts of kindness.

This past week I received some new socks. They’re Bombas, which I had no idea what that was until I had something in my mail and I needed socks. I thought, “Hey, I can get a discount.” So I ordered the socks and learned that with each pair purchased, the company provides a pair of socks to someone in need.

When I received the socks I got a card that said Comfort and Kindness. On the inside of the card, it had the heading “Powered by Kindness.” The card then reminds us that

“small acts of kindness matter, whether you’re donating socks to people in need or just making a friend smile, these gestures add up and when they do, great things can happen.”

It then listed 52 acts of kindness, hoping the recipient of this card won’t merrily toss it in the trash, but reflect on the possibility of doing some of these acts, perhaps one each week of the year. Things like

  • sharing a book you just read with someone else, or
  • buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line, or
  • picking up litter that you see

Simple, basic, easy, intentional acts of kindness.

So, during these 40 days of Lent, I wonder, what would happen if we each committed to doing one intentional act of kindness each day during the 40 days? If you miss a day, it’s okay. Nobody would know but you. The point isn’t to toot our own horn, but to see how contagious kindness can be.

As I was arriving this morning, Alfreda and Courtney were in the parking lot. Alfreda asked, “What’s an appropriate salutation for Lent?

“Happy Lent.” That doesn’t sound right.

I thought, perhaps, “May you have a blessed lent.” That’s fairly common.

Or, if you want to really step out, “May you have a holy Lent.”

But maybe, just maybe, our salutation this year is: “May your Lent be powered by kindness.” Amen.


I invite your thoughts and insights.

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