The Gamble of Doing Good

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

This is a transcript from the October 27, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

Brothers and sisters think about the things that are good.

That's our passage today. It's in your bulletin. It's also up on the screen. It's a short passage and listen to it. Listen to it with the ears that are encouraging us to dwell, to abide, to marinate ourselves in the things that are good.

"Brothers and sisters think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. Do what you have learned and received from me what I told you, and what you saw me do and the God who gives peace will be with you."

This month we have been centering around a theme called doing good and we've looked and we've tried to abide, we've tried to sit in that area of what does that mean to be good and to do good.

We had a verse, Ephesians 2:10, which was our memory verse for the month that you are God's work of art. We were created in Christ to do good works, which God has already designated to be our way of life and to let ourselves marinate in that, let ourselves steep in that verse. More than that we encourage people to do one of the habits of everyday spirituality which is every day. Every day try to do five things intentionally five things that are kind, five things of gratitude, five things of service, any combination of those things, anything that just pushes you out just a little bit further, where you have to make a choice to do something. Do that.

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

Then because we wanted to work out as a congregation, we even created a doing good wall, you could still add to it, by the way, this week. As you go out to know who has done things that are kind and acts of service and to recognize them as a way of encouraging one another, encourage this piece of us to do good together. Now, we're at the end of this month, and it's good to step back and just simply say, "So how's that going? What good did it do?"

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

On the one hand, maybe there were some things in your own life that went better? Maybe not. On the other hand, maybe there are some things I don't think the headlines changed any this month because of those things. I don't think we move the needle on world hunger or poverty or justice this month. It begs the question, what's so great about doing good? Why would we continue to do that? Because when we extend ourselves, when we do those things, and if nothing seems to happen, then maybe we're just being naive.

Maybe we are just setting ourselves up to look like suckers. Have you ever done that where you gave yourself, you did something good and you were hoping for some kind of response and you got nothing or in fact, it went the opposite way? Then you just felt like a fool. Who wants to be a fool, who wants to be the dupe? Who wants to be the one who does all these things that are good and have nothing in return or maybe just the opposite?

This morning, I want to talk about what's the gamble of doing good because I believe there really is a gamble. We really are rolling the dice, we have no guarantees, no guarantees that what we are doing is going to turn out in the way that we want to, that we're even going to make a difference. Along that what I'm going to propose are two things this morning. The first part is I believe that doing good is essential. The second part that it's the most realistic thing that we can possibly do.

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

In the face of everything else, in the face of our own experience, perhaps even this month, I want to argue both of those things. What I want to argue from is first and foremost is what we have already talked about that God, God's essence, when I talk about essential, I'm talking about the essence of who God is. The essence of God is good. Every day, God creates and at the end of every day, God says, "It is good." It reflects the nature, the creativity of God.

Then on the sixth day, God creates humans and says, "Very good". These are the ones we are the bearers of God's image. We are the ones who are God's representatives and agents in unique ways to further the good. We sat on this idea that the word in the English language good is connected to the word God. When we are doing good at its best we are extending and embodying the essence of God.

When Paul is writing to this congregation in Philippines and he says, "Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise." He's really saying, think about the things that align you with who God is. This is your Creator. This is the heart of creation. Think about the things that are true and honorable, right and pure, beautiful and respected, but it's more than that. It's more than just reflecting the essence of God, it is reflecting the essence of what it means to be human.

On the one hand, we could make the argument that the reason we do good is because we know that when we don't do good, bad things are more likely to happen. We're not always sure that when we do good, good things are going to be the result, but history has shown the wisdom of this statement, attributed to back that the only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for good people to do nothing.

I think it goes deeper than that. I think it goes deeper to the core of who we are. We'll go back to our verse, you, we are God's work of art. We are the handiwork, we're the masterpiece, we're the creation of God and we were created to do good work which God has already prepared for us in advance to do. This is who we are. When we don't extend. Not only do we allow more evil, but we diminish. We get a little smaller. The people around us get a little smaller.

An example of this, for instance, as an example, beyond the talk of it all. Some of you saw this, that on YouTube, and I think it was on TV in Jordan, women's soccer in Jordan, and some of the players wear hijabs and some don't. It has to do with a difference in the culture and some women do this as an act of modesty and others don't.

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

In this case, there was one particular woman who was playing with her hijab and got hit in the head. What happened is it started to come off. Rather than continuing to play, the other team stopped. If you saw this, what they did is they began, the other team began to gather around this woman, and it did something amazing. They gathered around in a circle around her so that she could adjust and not be embarrassed and not have to be immodest, in front of all the public, and they just gave her a space and they instinctively stopped what they did and gave her space and time so that she could then come back to the game.

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The Gamble of Doing Good - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

It wasn't their piety. It wasn't their expression of faith, but they saw someone in need and that's what they did in the middle of a game. Who was helped? Well, obviously the woman in the middle was helped. Who else was helped? The people around her, but there's one other group to be helped. That was the audience.

Instinctively, spontaneously, they broke out into applause. Instinctively, spontaneously, this went viral this last week. Do you know what the score was at the end of this game? Neither do I, who cares?

Because the real score was good was done. There was something instinctive, that said, "Yes, that's good. That's right. We cheer for that." This is more than just sports.

There's brain science where they have people in a control group where they're just shown a neutral sort of film and then the other group is shown Mother Teresa caring for the poor. Then they measured the brainwaves of people who are going through all of that.

The people who have seen this act of good, who just observed it, their brains fire in different ways. Afterward, when they gave these tests of how they respond, this is the group that responds with more generosity, they respond with more kindness, for nothing else, then they just witnessed good being done. This is the power, what I talk about it's the essence of who we are. The essential part of doing good is it gets to the core of who we are as human beings.

Yes, we can take shortcuts and people do. Yes, we can choose not to and people do. It's not always one for one, immediate, but there is something that's embedded in the DNA. Something that's embedded in our brain, something that's embedded in our creation that is created for and responds to good and when we don't do it it's more than just an option. As more than we just allow for evil to come in, we become less human and the world around us becomes less humane. When we do, good things begin to happen.

This is more than just a tag-on line. This exhortation from Paul to his congregation in Philippi and to the congregation in Castle Rock is getting and encouraging and exhorting us to the good things of what it means to be human. Think about the things, dwell on the things, marinate yourself in the things, abide in the things, stew in the things that are good and worthy of praise. Savor the things that are true and honorable and right and pure, beautiful and respected.

Think about the things that are good,

the things that are worthy of praise.

Think about all those things
that are true, honorable, right, pure.

We think about those things because by doing so, we are getting to the essence of who God is. We center down on the core of the universe, on our creator. We also get to the very core of who we are. There's another reason to do so, because I believe by doing so, we are doing some of the most realistic things we can do.

Here's what I mean by that. Some of you, if you remember Dave's reference to We Are the World and you're going to remember Marty McFly. They came about the same time and it was the movie of Back to the Future. If you recall that at least one of the movies, I believe it was one where somebody goes to the future, they get the Sports Almanac and they bring it back into their time.

In this Sports Almanac is every score of every game, the result of every race. What they have is a gold mine as it turns out, for someone, because all they have to do is bet on what they already know to be true, and they become rich. They do. Why am I referencing Marty McFly? Because in a very real sense, the people in the first-century Philippi, and the people in the 21st century Castle Rock, get to do the same thing.

That the risen Christ is the one who shows us how this all ends. It shows what the future looks like. It shows that Christ has overcome sin, sickness and finally the ultimate enemy of death. The people who are living in Philippi understand that what they are doing is they are living into the future. It is no easier for them to do good than it is for us, probably harder. There was even more persecution. There was even less evidence that they were going to do anything that had a difference, but they lived into it anyway because they believed it.

Imagine Marty McFly coming here this morning. He would pull out something and he would say, "Listen, I've got every score, I've got everything and do you know what's going to happen? The Broncos are going to win the Super Bowl this year." Now, there's like a 5% chance that they're even going to get there, let alone win it. If we really believe that what he was bringing was true, if he really believed that he had the stuff, what would be the most realistic thing to do? We'd go bet the farm right now on the Super Bowl standings and on the game and who's going to be there. Because we could even bet on the store.

The least realistic thing to do is to play it safe and go, "Well, we just don't know." That would be the most foolish thing because we know and we believe we know what the future is.

What's the most realistic thing that we can do given that we are in the presence of the risen Christ? Given that we know that whether things fail, or whether things die, it doesn't matter, at the end we know how this works.

We know that the things that fail are redeemed, we know the things that die are resurrected. We know the things that are evil as real as they are at Sunday they burn off like dross on gold, the scripture says. The things that are good, they matter and they are kept. If we believed that, we'd roll the dice, we'd bet the farm on doing good because it is the most realistic thing we can do based on what we believe about the future.

Here's how NT Wright says it, he says,

"Listen what you do in the present by paging and preaching and singing and sowing and praying and teaching and building hospitals and digging wells, when you campaign for justice, when you write poems, when you care for the needy, when you love your neighbor as yourself, all those things will last into God's future."

It's an invitation to take seriously the gamble of doing good. There are no guarantees that everything we do, we're going to get to see. All we do is roll the dice every day. There is a gamble of not doing good because we know that when we don't do good, that we just leave the vacuum open and evil tends to happen. We know that when that happens, people miss the essence of their own humanity, let alone the meaning of their own life.

There is this other gamble about, "Will I extend myself, will I do good even when there's no guarantee that I can see?" It's an invitation that every church has had to face, that every Christian has had to face every day and it's ours as well. This week you and I will go out there and we will make a statement of faith. It has nothing to do with the words that we say, the songs that we sing, the prayers that we pray.

It will have everything to do with the way that we live our life. The way that we live our life this week, is our ultimate statement about what we believe about the future, and what it means to be alive today. It is a gamble that is given to us and it begins with this exhortation. This is what you do. You think about the things that are good and the things that are worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable. Think about the things that are right and pure and beautiful and respected, and then roll the dice. Go all in.

Because we know how this ends. How this ends means we get to live our life the best way we get to live our life, the most realistic way we get to live our life. The way that reflects the essence of who we are is to never, ever get weary of doing good.