"Be kinder than is necessary"
Originally composed for chapel at Canterbury Episcopal School, DeSoto TX
Leviticus 19.1-2, 18; Psalm 133; Gospel: Matthew 22.34-40; Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13.1-4
(modified from Proper 25, RCL Year A; use was second week of Lent)

Note: this page uses the SP Tiberian and SP Ionic fonts. If you do not have this font installed, you will see odd characters instead of Hebrew or Greek letters at points in the text.

We begin today by reciting an ancient Hebrew proclamation:

Blessed is the Lord, Giver of the Torah

hwhy yn) K@wmb K@(rl tbh)w K@m( ynb-t) r+t-)lw Mqt_)l

You shall not take vengeance, nor shall you bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall be loving to your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh. Leviticus 19:18

The gospel of Jesus the Christ:

A0gaph/seij ku/rion to\n qeo/n sou e)n o$lh| th=| kardi/a| sou kai\ e)n o$lh| th=| yuxh=| sou kai\ e)n o$lh| th=| dianoi/a| sou

You shall be loving the Lord your God with the whole of your heart and with the whole of your soul, and with the whole of your mind. Matthew 22.37.

Some of you who have been in my room have seen Filbert,
one of the "Pocket Dragons"
(Filbert was with me, and even made a circuit of the students)
and you've seen some of them on pictures in my hall window.
Many of you know that they are designed by a local resident,
Real Musgrave.
All of the Pocket Dragons, whether stuffed or small figurines
are cute, witty, and fun.

Now I happen to know his mother from church,
and I've had the pleasure of meeting Real himself.
One of the things that impresses me about both
mother, son, and all the siblings is that they live by a motto
that shows up a lot in Real's writings about these creations of his:
"be kinder than is necessary."
(A later addition: the quote seems to have originated with
James Matthew Barrie, creator of Peter Pan,
as "always be a little kinder than necessary.")

Why be kinder than necessary?

Because that is the way God is.
That’s what “grace” is all about:
as an old saying goes,
justice is when you get what you deserve,
grace is when you get what you don’t deserve.

Grace is all about God's love in action.

Now, a lot of people think they are not, or cannot be religious,
because they think of religion as rules.
And I am glad that many of you say in that in my class, so we can talk about it.

That's because, as both Moses and Jesus tell us today,
being religious is not about following a bunch of rules.
That word “love” in these readings is a verb
and it’s always in the present tense.

Jesus reminds us that religion is how we live.
Love is what you do to others, every day, how you act with others,
here in the halls and classes, at home or out on the street with others.
Love is the opposite of grudges and vengeance.
Love is being kind, and even kinder than is necessary.
And yes, love takes all of our effort.
And love is for everyone we meet.

Paul wrote that
H( a)ga/ph makroqumei=, xrhsteu/etai h( a)ga/ph,
Love is patient, and love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13.4

In many ways, throughout life,
the way that we are measured by systems, groups, and people
is a comparison of how much better or worse we are than others,
whether the standard is “status,” grades, or money (among others).
I have a problem with that sort of measurement,
because it wants us all to be the same,
matching some sort of "ideal person."
It is easy to forget that every one of us does well in some things and has trouble in other things,
and at the same time others find some of our hard things easy.
The true standard is loving each other for what we all are: God’s creation
and living and working together for the good of all.

Sometimes love and kindness are hard,
because we have to say no or insist on a change.
(Believe it or not, we don't like to give out bad grades or detentions).
But kindness always cares about people as people first,
and tries to do what is best.

We often think about Lent as a time when we "give up" something,
but the true challenge of Lent is to renew,
it's a time to get back to our roots,
even in a place like the book of Leviticus,
and a time to gain new perspective.
I challenge you today, as a way of engaging the season,
Live religion, and “be kinder than is necessary.”

"Pocket Dragons," "Filbert," and their designs are trademarks of or copyright by Real Musgrave.
Photo is by Tim Vermande.