Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost 31 July 2016
(Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23 Psalm 49 Colossians 3:1-11 Luke 12:13-21)
“When Doing Good is not Good Enough!”
[This message was given on a day when we lifted up a Mission Trip to Haiti during the week of April 23-30, 2016. A PowerPoint presentation and reflections from two individuals who went on the trip preceded this part of the message.]
I want to thank this congregation, especially the World Outreach Committee for your moral and financial support for this trip.
Thank you, Kim Guise for your hard work leading up to this trip. To Janet Landon, Bill Shoemaker, Joan Orndorff, Stan Weidler, and especially Jacques for your vision, your openness and your helping to provide this opportunity for us.
This was an absolutely powerful and moving week that could stir any one of our hearts and bring us to tears of sadness at one moment and tears of joy in the very next moment.
So what is next? Because as good and life-changing that week may have been for those who were there, doing a week of good is no longer good enough in today’s world burning with so many desperate needs.
So, part of this morning’s presentation is to remember that week, to share it with you, and also, to help us look to the future, to help figure out how we might develop relationships with partners who can make a lasting difference in the lives of these and other children.
That is exactly what we are doing by our support of missionaries throughout the world. So I want to raise the question if this is what we, as a congregation, wish to do in Haiti.
The day we met with Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran World Federation was a key day, I believe, if we are to create long-lasting change in the lives of these people, especially as the children become teenagers and get to an age where they must leave the orphanage. How might we assist in creating sustainable lives for their futures? I don’t know all the answers, but I met with Beth McKinley, our local representative for Lutheran World Relief for two hours this past Wednesday to discuss this very thing.
More than once during that week, as we found ourselves in places where the poverty seemed so entrenched, where the garbage was piled so high and where the government seemed so careless and corrupt, we often needed to remind each other not to lose hope in what we were doing.
There is a story we told each other more than once that week. It is a story often called the “Starfish Story” and I’d like to share it with you.
Once upon a time there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed, and he found the beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a young girl approaching. As the girl walked, she paused every so often and as she grew closer, the man could see that she was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The girl came closer still and the man called out to her, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young girl paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The girl bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far she could into the ocean. Then she turned to the man, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
I guess it is true that we all have the opportunity to help create positive change in our own little part of the world, and for some of us beyond. But I also know how easy it is to begin thinking, “There is so much need, so really, how much difference can I make?” I know I feel this when it comes to addressing massive social issues such as homelessness, cancer, hunger, poverty, and so many more.
At those times is when it becomes so important to remember this story. We might not be able to change the whole world, but we can change a part of it, one starfish at a time.
One of the most common reasons for procrastinating, for not “joining in” is because we perceive the challenge before us as too overwhelming. That is when it is most important to break the job down into smaller pieces and address each, one at a time. And to that one starfish, it will make all the difference in the world.
These past several weeks we’ve been hearing Gospel texts that speak of what it means to be rich toward God. It is using our resources for the benefit of our neighbor in need, as did the Samaritan. It includes intentionally listening to God’s word as did Mary. It means prayerfully trusting that God will provide for the needs of life. And being rich toward God means not allowing our relationships with our possessions to be more important than our relationship with our neighbor.
During our week, we had devotional time each day, and on the final day we prayed this prayer:
May the love of life fill our hearts.
May the love of earth bring joy to heaven.
May the love of self deepen our souls.
May the love of neighbor heal our world.
As nations, as peoples, as families this day, may the love of life heal our world. Amen.