Sermon October 11, 2020

Cain & Abel Redux
Genesis 4
October 11 2020

We’re making our way through Genesis in our Wednesday Bible study.  I want to invite you to join us this coming week at noon via Zoom.  

This past Wednesday we opened up Genesis 4, the account of Cain and Abel.  I preached about it last week…. how these two brothers, the first born of Adam and Eve…became rivals.  They brought sacrifices to God, and, for some inexplicable reason, Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God.

That infuriated Cain, and one day when he and his brother, Abel, were alone in the field, he set upon him and murdered and murdered him.

So violence and bloodshed dates back to the very dawn of creation, back to the first family, back to the first brothers.

There is an Indian tribe in Ecuador called the Jivaro tribe.  Each night when the children are put to bed, the parents linger by their children’s place of rest and whisper in their ear the names of all the people they must hate when they grow older.  It is their tribal way of keeping the feuds and enmities alive from generation to generation.

I need not talk about the proliferation of violence in our society.  You only need to switch on your TV or open your morning paper to be reminded of it.

Have you noticed how mean-spirited and vicious so many of the political ads are?  Why are there so many of them?  Because they work:

So says Joan Phillips, a professor of marketing at Loyola University who has researched how voters react to negative political ads. But if so many people say they can’t stand the ads, why are they so effective?

“It’s the same reason why people are more likely to watch the weather when a hurricane is coming than when it’s sunny and 70 degrees outside,” Phillips says.

“We pay more attention to negative information,” she says. “It’s more salient, it scares us, and we’re more likely to remember it.” 

The fact that we pay more as much attention to the negative as to the positive does not speak well of us.

The attack ads make us cynical about politicians. It erodes civility.  It fractures the body politic. 

All of you remember Korne Klapwijk who was here from the Dutch AF over the winter to learn how to fly F 35s.  One of his colleagues who has been in this country for several years wrote this letter to the editor in our local paper, the “West Valley View.”

“For the past three years I’ve been stationed  in the US as a foreign soldier.  I have accomplished major parts of my military training in different parts of the U.S.

“I have always admired this country and its people for the progress, the warm-heartedness and generosity. But these days it breaks my heart to see what’s happening out there.  All the current conflicts, like impoverishment of consideration parts of society, violence, riots and racism, must not be ignored by anyone.  These are the major symptoms of deficiencies in society as a whole that will not only get worse if suppressed and not properly treated at their roots.  This will cost money and effort. But there is no way around it.  Negligence in solving these conflicts will have sad consequences for everyone in the future.”   

Nowhere have I found a better strategy for the discord and violence in our society than in “The Paradoxical Commandments” by Dr. Kent M. Keith.

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.  

A friend of mine decided to engage in a mission to both find and create more kindness in my world.  He had noticed that the news headlines and even personal encounters are too frequently mean and mean-spirited. There are the bullies, both teenage and grown-ups. There are the slurs and other hateful language. 

He tells about waiting in a long line at his favorite bakery, which makes some amazing scones. The delicious pile in the glass case dwindled quickly as those in the long line ahead of him snapped them up, until there was just one perfect beauty remaining with one woman ahead of him.  To his everlasting joy, she chose a croissant, so when he got to the counter he pointed to the last scone and declared, “I’ll take that.” No sooner had he spoken than the fellow behind him cried out: “Hey, that’s my scone! I ‘ve been waiting in line for 10 minutes!” Which he had been–behind my friend.    

He surprised both of them when he didn’t respond with, “Sorry, it’s mine!” Instead, he countered: “Would you like half?”  After a moment of shocked silence, he accepted the offer and one-upped his spontaneous act of generosity. “Why don’t I buy another pastry and we can share both?” 

They then sat down on a nearby bench to break bread. While it turned out they had almost nothing in common from their jobs, ages, political views or marital status they shared a moment of connection and kindness.   

Here’s how Paul puts it in Philippians 4: 
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–think about such things.