31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
February 26, 2023
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Our scouts look very snazzy in their uniforms, and our scouts also know that being a scout is about more than the uniform with its cool patches and epaulets. Being a scout is more than attending scout meetings and working on adventures and merit badges. Being a scout is about living a life that embodies the scout law. Living a life of service, where your kindness, helpfulness, bravery and trustworthiness are lived out in your actions and deeds.
Being a scout is more than the outward appearance, and yet wearing the scout uniform, attending meetings, working on adventures and merit badges, all of this outward stuff changes us. It changes how we think; it changes how we behave. Flag ceremony by flag ceremony, camping trip by camping trip, community service event by community service event, we are inwardly changed. We become scouts who do their duty to God and country, help other people, and obey the scout law. Being courteous and cheerful, loyal and reverent becomes a part of who we are- our way of life, a way of service, a way that makes the world a better place.
So it is with being a Christian. For many of us who seek to follow Jesus Christ, we have been outwardly marked by the sign of the cross, at our baptisms with water and the Holy Spirit, on Ash Wednesday with lavender oil. We wear the sign of the cross on a necklace. We carry a little cross in our pocket or purse. We say the Lord’s prayer. We attend worship.
Being a follower of Jesus Christ is about more than putting on the uniform of being a Christian. It’s about more than doing the outward signs of attending worship and church events. Being a Christian, being marked by the cross, changes us. It changes how we think; it changes how we behave. When we hear God’s word in the Bible, we listen for how God is speaking to us. We pray; we talk to God and we expect a response. We expect the miraculous. We live generously, sharing with others, trusting God to care for our daily needs. We live compassionately, loving others because God loves us.
A life of faith changes us, changes us into people who trust God even when it doesn’t make sense or sound reasonable; changes us into people who love even when it doesn’t make sense or sound reasonable.
On Ash Wednesday, I asked people to write a word about what the cross means to them, what it means to be marked by the cross of Jesus Christ, and people wrote, “peace, strength, hope, forgiveness, everlasting life, unconditional love”.
The cross and all that it means, changes us. Changes our hearts, changes our behavior, changes our lives. Being blessed with God’s unconditional love, seeing ourselves as God’s precious children and God’s instruments of peace and hope, warms us up inside and continues out into a life of kindness, a life of generosity and service.
As both of our scriptures said in different ways, being a part of Christ’s community, being loved by God, having faith in God, should change us inwardly and change us outwardly. Faith without service, without kindness, without action isn’t really faith. It’s simply saying some words and going through the motions. It isn’t life-giving. It isn’t world-changing. It’s not the life of service Jesus calls us to live.
Being loved by God, having faith in Christ should always result in action. Sharing God’s love with someone to feed their spiritual hunger as you also make sure to feed their physical hunger. Putting yourself and your wants aside to help others. Showing your trust in God by being honest and truthful in your own life. Making our whole world a better place through acts of justice, through care of God’s creation, through service to others.
Just as a scout is known by their uniform, their heart-felt helpfulness, and their life of service, so too are Christians known by the sign of the cross and lives of faith and trust, lives that demonstrate love of God and love of others through acts of compassion, kindness, and service.
We are forever changed by the love of others, by the love of God, so as Wendell Berry wrote:
… friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
(“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry)
Every day, be changed by love and do something that doesn’t make sense or sound reasonable. Trust God. Serve faithfully. Volunteer. Love someone who does not deserve it. Give, expecting nothing in return. Forget yourself as you lend a helping hand. Make the world a more peaceful and just place.
Live changed, changed by love.