Who’s a good boy? by Pastor Noel

July 22, 2018    Proper 11B

 

      There is a cartoon that is supposed to make us laugh, but it always makes me cry.

      A dog is sitting, staring out into the distance. He is thinking, “What if I never find out who’s a good boy?”

      It’s funny, because we so often hear folks say to their dogs, “who’s a good boy?”

      And it’s sad, because so many of us humans spend our lives wondering that about ourselves.

      Who’s good? Who’s good enough? We wonder

      Needlessly.

      In our Collect today we prayed that God will have compassion “and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask.”

      Are we unworthy? Well, we are not God.

      And, God has declared us “good” and “worthy to stand before him” (as we say in Prayer B)

      We can be blind to the worthiness that God gives us. We spend lives in blindness to God’s love for us and keep wondering, “who’s a good boy?”

      I read recently about a woman working with folks released from prison. She helps keep them from making the same mistakes over and over.

      She says that they get “tunnel vision” and can see only one way to live.

      Many of them have been told all their lives that they are not a good boy. They are filled with unworthiness. They have no idea how to live as a good boy.

      She helps them find self-worth and open themselves to better, healthier, law-abiding lives.

      When we are told all our lives, that we are worthless, we believe it. When we are told that others are worthless, we believe it about them, and they believe it about themselves.

      Black people in this county are having trouble overcoming two hundred years of being considered worthless. Even those whose families were not here 200 years ago, or were not slaves.

      Two thousand years ago Paul said that Jesus has a different way of looking at life.

      Jesus has broken down dividing walls between people and peoples. Paul was writing about Jews and Gentiles.

      We are Gentiles. Along with the Jews, we are those for whom the divisions are gone.

      Paul writes that we are no longer strangers and aliens, but “citizens with saints, and members of the household of God.”

      Elsewhere he writes that “there is no longer Jew or Greek…slave or free…male and female” for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

      All one in God, all one in Jesus.

      So who’s a good boy? We all are!

      And when we know that, what a difference in our lives!

      It’s hard to find good news these days, but it is out there! Stories about people reaching out to help.

      Like the boss who bought a car for his employee who was walking 20 miles to work each day.

      Or kids who have lemonade stands and give the proceeds for a good cause.

      These are often called “feel good” stories. I have a friend who says they don’t make her feel good, they make her angry.

      They shouldn’t be singled out as special or unusual. They should be the way we all live all the time!

      That is how members of the household of God should be living. Caring and sharing for others.

      Because others are not other. They are us.

      When Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners he wasn’t having dinner with others, he was having dinner with us.

      Who’s a good boy? Everyone.

      Well, everyone has the opportunity to be a good boy, to be a member of God’s household.    Some of us choose to accept that God calls us family and worthy. We may still be blind, at times, to the fullness of being God’s family.

      We may forget our oneness with all the others, and, there is always Jesus to bring us back into the family. To give us healing.     

      We read that Jesus went around healing all sorts of illnesses. The woman in the crowd just reached out to touch his clothes and was healed.

      Today we heard that those who touched the fringe of Jesus cloak were healed.

      I am grateful for the gift of healing that continues today. Some, like Jesus, have that gift. Some are medically trained, and I’m grateful for them as my daughter heals from surgery.

      Jesus brings healing, and that is not always physical healing. The healing we can find in him and from him is not cure from an illness, but being whole and healthy in our relationship with God. It’s called grace, and peace and hope…..

      Knowing that God calls us worthy and family. Knowing that God would say we’re the good boy.

      We’re the good boy (or girl) not because we are good but because God shares his goodness with us.

      This goodness can heal us of everything that puts us in the not a good boy camp.

      When we don’t recognize that there are no others, there is only us, we need God’s goodness to heal us. When we put up divisions between us and others, we need God’s goodness to heal us.

      When we are blind to God’s presence in our lives and in the world around us, we need God’s goodness to heal us.

      God’s goodness is there for us, all around and just waiting for us to see and accept. God’s goodness is in everything we say and do, when we open our eyes and hearts for it.

      And that fringe on Jesus’ cloak—it’s still here!

      We just need to reach out our hand, our heart, our life. Touch the fringe and let God’s goodness fill our lives and bring the healing that makes us part of God’s family.

      Who’s a good boy? We all are.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details