Lent Mid-week Message from Dr. Watson
Today, I want to continue my Lenten series about spiritual exercises. As I noted last week, I am not talking about the “typical” spiritual exercises or disciplines that we normally associate with the season of Lent, such as prayer, fasting, giving, and of course, my favorite, giving up something for Lent. There is a popular quote going around social media these days that says, “This is the Lentiest Lent I ever Lented.” No doubt about that! Whatever we had in mind to “give up for Lent” this year has been blown out of the proverbial water. We have had to give up more than we ever imagined: going to church, eating out, going to ballgames, libraries, museums, concerts, parks, etc. Even seeing our families and friends has become problematic, so I think we have more than made up for any past failings of giving up something for Lent!
Because of how difficult this Lent has been on everyone, the spiritual exercise or discipline I want to discuss today is very simple: be kind. Or at least it sounds simple. Some of you may remember me talking about kindness in church one Sunday morning a few months ago. I noted that the word “kind” is related to the word “kin” or family. Think also of the word “kindergarten,” which originated in the German language, as a place where young children can blossom (as if we are planting them in a garden-don’t go there!). All of this is to say that to be “kind” to one another means to treat others as if they are kin to us, as if we love them as much as we love our own children.
Admittedly, that’s tough to do with some folks. Last week I received a phone call from a self-proclaimed preacher, who said he and some other homeless folks were looking for a place to “live,” because all the places they normally hang out during the day are closed. Of course, I felt compassion for the gentleman, even as I was thinking how this would be a logistical nightmare. But then he kept talking and he surprisingly referred to this pandemic as “nothing but a hoax.” At that moment, my kindness began to dissipate. I thought to myself, “Contagious virus aside, I’m not sure I want this guy living in my work environment.” (So, no, they will not be living here in the Fellowship Hall.)
So, yea, kindness isn’t always easy, but it is what we are called to do, even for those we think may not “deserve” our kindness. This means that sometimes kindness requires to get out of our comfort zones. We tend to envision kindness as something akin (pardon the pun) to putting a flower in our hair and walking around being cheerful to everyone. (If you don’t have any hair I apologize for that analogy.) We also tend to be kind to others only when we feel like it. But if we are to treat everyone as if they are kin to us, we can’t just wait until we feel like smiling to everyone. We need to make a concerted effort to do so. We need to be disciplined at being kind to others, even if it hurts a little. Sometimes it’s even hard to be kind to our kin, so there’s no question that it is sometimes uncomfortable to be kind to those who do not share a family bond with us.
Smiling is a good place to start, however. Now that springtime is here, one of the things I enjoy most is walking or biking around my neighborhood. I live in Bel Nor. The homes in the entire neighborhood were constructed in the 1930s with red bricks made from the mud of the Mississippi River. Almost everyone is outdoors these days, needing to get some fresh air while maintaining proper social distancing from others. As I walk or ride past others, I have noticed that almost everyone is smiling and waving . . . much more than they ever have.
Perhaps because of our social isolation these days we are beginning to sense the kinship we share with one another. We are all in this together. This is difficult for all of us. So, at the very least, let’s be kind to one another. I hope to see you, or rather I hope you see me on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m.