Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…

The brief order for confession and forgiveness that many of us grew up with began with this statement:

“Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”

I guess I believe that, at least I believe some of it; the part about God being merciful. Of course, we all miss the mark on occasion. We do have thoughts, words and deeds that are regrettable. A little self-reflection is a good thing. Confessing what we already know, trusting a merciful God to forgive us is also a good thing. We all benefit from hearing words of forgiveness and by extending that forgiveness to others.

But from my life experience, I have come to believe that most people are good. They have issues, we all have issues, but most people are good. Remember, anything over 50% counts as most, and I think that the number is much higher, perhaps as high as 95%.

I was off island a few weeks ago, that means that I was dressed in civilian clothes and totally anonymous. At the grocery store, where the lines were long, I stood patiently with one item waiting to check out. A woman with a full grocery cart in front of me in line said, “Please go before me.” It was a little thing, it was a random and uncalled for act of kindness and it won’t make the evening news, but it was uniquely human and it was appreciated.

The next day, Felicia and I decided to go for a bike ride. My lovely wife is a disciplined athlete. She swims, runs, bikes, and practices yoga. I am not so inclined. I drive a golf cart and one of my rules for life is, “don’t run unless you are being chased.” It is rare that you find me on a bike, but the weather was lovely, and the ride was going well. The bike path was relatively flat and I was keeping up with Felicia. Then without warning, my chain came off. I messed with it for a bit, used theological language inappropriately and looked on my phone for the location of the nearest bike rental. Several miles from home now, I was happy to find that I was only a mile away from a bike shop. So off I walked, pushing my chainless bike until I arrived at the destination.

Looking distressed with black grease on my hands, I was greeted by a chiseled 30 something man with a tank top shirt and more than a few tattoos. He did this and then he did that, and like magic the next thing you know the chain was back on, and I was ready for the road. He had no interest in being paid, “it is what we do for each other,” he said. We shook hands and I said, “you my friend are a Good Samaritan.”

Each day, like you, I encounter a wide range of people and I am telling you that most people are good. Most people just want to provide for their families, to live in peace, to obey the laws of the land, to love and be loved in return. Now of course, there are some who are carrying such heavy loads that they cannot manage a smile. We are all products of our raising, and some have had it pretty tough, and it shows. But I believe that deep down if they are given a chance, that they too will prove to be good people.

Most people are good, but good people doing ordinary things is not very newsworthy. Bad news and bad behavior garner ratings. Hearing bad news leads us to believe that things are bad, and people are bad. And the church has been guilty in adding a load of guilt and shame to simple humans struggling to survive.

“Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”

God is merciful, we all make mistakes, and we are forgiven, called to live and love with grateful hearts. “Sinful and unclean?” I am not buying that part anymore. Humans have complicated lives and relationships. We all carry wounds and regrets. But most people are good.

Most people are good, can you prove me right this week? Can you be a Good Samaritan this week? Can you love intentionally and randomly? Can you show the world the love of Jesus by being loving yourself? Can you receive forgiveness and extend forgiveness? Can you celebrate the fact that you and your neighbors were created in the image of God?

I believe in you. I have seen you in action. I believe that most people are good.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

I am your,

Pastor Jim

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