“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
A friend’s daughter’s friend works on commercials in New York City. She was up for a visit a while back and we met them for pizza in Northampton. I told my friend’s daughter’s friend that I would volunteer happily to be on one of those focus groups for commercials. I wanted the chance to tell the ones who make them that commercials are terrible, absolutely terrible.
I get so frustrated with commercials that we just hooked-up something behind our television so that we can watch streaming services without commercials. Well, actually my daughters were home last weekend and they had to set up for us. It costs some money, but we’re going to either cut back to the most basic subscription for cable or just get rid of it completely.
The ones who write commercials must think we’re not very bright. Not all of the time, but most of the time. Take Liberty Mutual for example. Some agency was probably paid a truck load of money to come up with Doug and a sidekick emu, an ostrich-like bird. It’s so stupid I have to hit the mute on the television when it comes on.
What makes it worse is that not long ago Liberty Mutual ran a wonderful commercial about paying it forward. The camera tracked a single, unspectacular act of kindness as it was passed from one person to the next. I went looking for that commercial on YouTube and that’s when I ran into Life Vest Inside instead.
I think I found the first video they ever produced. It dates back eight years. And it’s been watched 31 and half million times. I wanted to show it here, but we don’t have any wifi, but you should check it out at home. The link will be posted with this morning’s sermon later today after the CROP Hunger Walk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU
We can’t watch it, but we can imagine. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes and try and imagine this story.
It begins with four kids riding skateboards down a city sidewalk when one of them falls. A construction worker is coming out of a coffee shop. He puts down his coffee for a moment and helps the kid to his feet.
The same kid then helps a woman struggling with her groceries to cross the street. That woman then sees someone searching fruitlessly for change at a parking meter and gives it to her. That person sees a businessman drop his wallet and she rushes to pick it up and give it back to him.
The well-dressed businessman takes a couple of moments to help another guy carry something heavy out of his car and over to his doorstep. That guy goes to buy a hot dog from a vendor with a cart on the sidewalk.
That’s when he sees a homeless guy resting against a building. He grabs two dogs instead of one. As he walks over to the guy, the hotdog vendor grabs him by the shoulder and gives him a water too. The hotdog and water are shared with the guy who has nothing.
While the homeless man is really enjoying that hotdog, he sees a young woman get up and start walking without noticing that she has left her cell phone on a window’s ledge. He rushes over, taps her on the shoulder and gives it back. She’s surprised and then she smiles.
This woman then notices another woman sitting by herself at an outdoor café. She’s sitting there alone watching a mother with her two young daughters at a nearby table. She looks so lonely. The other lady buys a small bouquet of flowers and gives it to her, and the woman sitting by herself holds that woman’s hand to her cheek.
The lady selling the flowers sees this and gives a single rose to the lady who did this act of kindness. The lady who had been sitting by herself sees a waitress getting reamed-out by her supervisor. She leaves the café. The waitress comes over to clear her table and that’s when she notices a hundred-dollar tip.
Then the waitress goes and gets a cold glass of water and shares it with a construction worker who is sweating as he’s working hard on the street outside the café. He smiles. He’s the same construction worker who first helped the kid who fell off his skateboard.
You can open your eyes now.
The video is called Boomerang because the act of kindness that we choose to do may spread in ways unexpected and may even come back to reward us. Life-Vest-Inside produced this video and it closes with the message: “Because kindness keeps the world afloat.” And the music and the lyrics behind this whole video are beautiful. If you have the time, check it out.
This idea of paying it forward is also found in today’s Gospel. We’re told that Jesus is in the border region between Galilee and Samaria. I know it’s a different parable, but I think we’ve all heard the story of the Good Samaritan so often that we probably know that the Jewish people were not at all fond of the Samaritans. This comes into play again in today’s Gospel.
Lepers suffered terribly. They must deal with the pain of their disease, but they also had to endure social isolation. 2,000 years ago, the only way to treat leprosy was to isolate the ones afflicted. They could have no contact with anyone except other lepers. Family, friends, neighbours – they were cut off from all of them.
Then, on top of the disease and the isolation, lepers also had to process the teaching that they were morally unclean, that God also had a problem with being around them.
These are the ten who from a required, safe distance yell over to Jesus for the miracle of healing. The miracle is granted and they are understandably overcome with joy. In their celebration, however, only one, a Samaritan, takes the time to come back to Jesus and say “Thank you.”
The only one who is grateful is the most unexpected one, the Samaritan.
We never know how our acts of kindness will affect others, even Jesus was surprised that it was only the Samaritan who came back to say, “Thank you.” We will never know all the blessings of what doing something like, for example, being a part of today’s CROP Walk may lead to, but we don’t have to.
That’s the message of the video about paying it forward. We don’t know how our acts of kindness will travel. We don’t have the benefit of an all-seeing camera watching as an act of kindness is payed forward, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hope that they make a difference, and that it may even come full-circle and make a difference for us.
Cynthia read for us from Second Timothy today. This Epistle is one of the later writings of the New Testament. And already we can hear about disagreements among believers who are “wrangling over words” that does no good.
Christians have been divided ever since there were Christians by “wrangling over words.” We emphasize the silly differences that would separate, but when it comes right down to it, Jesus is most concerned about how we live.
Nine may walk away with no thought of paying it forward, but the one makes all the difference. Let us pay it forward in our lives and let us pray that our random acts of kindness may help to make this a better world. And I think that’s probably the opposite of “wrangling over words.” And I think that’s a very special “Thank You” to Jesus.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
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