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By Luke Hawley

I grew up in a church with virtually no liturgical calendar. I mean, we celebrated Christmas and Easter and I remember once going to an Advent service, but that was at a different church and Advent was a word I’d never heard.

But now, in the fourth week of Eastertide (another new word), tasked with writing another Sunday homily (yet another), I can understand the invariably helpful nature of having a lectionary to turn to when the well comes up a bit dry.

Part of my hesitancy initially with the idea of writing from the suggestion of the lectionary was that I try—desperately—not to take things out of context. I’m a literature teacher after all—no one would think of opening The Great Gatsby to the middle of the book, grabbing a quick sentence, and saying, This must be what the book is about.

But I suppose context is at the heart of the lectionary anyway. And I also appreciate the power of a beautiful and efficient sentence. (For Fitzgerald, it’s not the middle, of course, but the very end.)

And the second lectionary reading of the fourth week of Eastertide delivers when it calls on 1 John 3:18:

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

Right?

I saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing for the first time about a year and a half ago and, as Robert Ebert wrote about it, “Most movies remain up there on the screen. Only a few penetrate your soul.” And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Mookie’s dilemma at the heart of the film. How does a person do the right thing? How do you know what the right thing even is? In my attempt to unravel all my confusion, I’ve been working on a new song, that plays around with Lee’s allusive line.

Dear God
It’s complicated
All these ventricles and veins
Pumping blood up to our brains
From our wild and woolly hearts

Oh Christ
The incarnated
Is this what you could see
In the garden on your knees
Begging for another way?

How do you do the right thing?
You do the right thing right.
How do you do the right thing?
You do the right thing right.

Right?

I’ve told people before that if I were a pastor, I think I might just get up every Sunday, say “It’s complicated”, offer a blessing, and sit back down.

How do we know that we’re doing the right thing? John makes it seem so simple in verse 18: just love each other in truth and action.

But it’s more complicated than that, right?

So thank goodness for his next beautiful sentence:

And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Luke Hawley

Luke Hawley teaches English at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. His collection of short stories, The Northwoods Hymnal, won a Nebraska Book Award. He sings and writes songs for The Ruralists. Check him out at www.lhawley.com or www.fullyruralized.com.

One Comment

  • Rowland Van Es says:

    your sermon would fit right in at our church where we say it is OK to ask questions. We don’t always have all the answers or just one answer. Life IS complicated and so should our faith be complicated. Welcome to the pilgrim journey with ups and downs and turns and backtracks but it is always interesting, never boring if you are paying attention.

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