The election is in two days.
Having heard that, what was your primary emotional reaction?
Based on conversations I frequently had his week, my guess is dread, exhaustion, discouragement, fatigue, weariness. Indeed, the chief thing I heard this week in all my conversations, not just the ones about politics, was folks just can’t wait for this election to be over. In fact, on the whole the desire for it to be over seems stronger than the desire for a particular candidate win.
It’s been an exhausting, debilitating, wearying year. This particular election doesn’t help that and, in fact, adds to it.
Fair to say, we’re a weary people.
Yet, the Bible says, “let us not grow weary.”
Let us not grow weary.
I hear Paul say that, but I think to myself that we’re all, so many of us, already there; weary. We’re weary from this pandemic that has altered our lives in significant ways and shows no signs of letting up. Yes, we’re learning how to live with it; church services resuming is evidence of that. But learning to live with it doesn’t bring us back our normalcy.
And it doesn’t heal us of the shock and disorientation that’s still unraveling. Decisions are still fraught, for example. When it comes to this past Halloween, just yesterday, should we let our kids go to a party? Should we trick or treat? Should we invite folks over for a party? When it comes to the holidays that are coming up, should we visit our family out of state? Should we invite people to gather at our house? What about the usual Christmas parties? Decision making is fraught, leaving us with decision-fatigue.
Then, there’s the news of the virus spreading across the country as the weather chills. The specter of lockdowns and life as we knew it in March and April returns, haunting us as a nation.
Then, there’s the election. People say they just can’t wait until it’s over. But will this one be over on Tuesday? Or will it drag into litigation, recounts, and fighting? Will it take a long time to count votes and recount votes? Will the vitriol and division get extended indefinitely while the parties fight with local election boards?
The specter of an election that goes on and on and on, like it did in 2000 but perhaps worse, looms over us. That specter is hard to swallow after eighteen months of campaigning, after a bitter and partisan fall. And if we dare open our mouths with opinions, whether online or in our families, we run risks of getting into heated exchanges where feelings are hurt and relationships damaged. Many of us have known that already as we wrestle with divided families.
This election season, compounded with the pandemic, leaves us very weary indeed.
Then, this year, we have known death. In just a bit, we will call the names of thirteen members of this church who have passed away since last All Saints. Thirteen. That’s a terribly high number for our church in general and for any church our size. Many of us have had death touch our families this year in ways that have left scars, perhaps still unhealed; a residue of grief that clings to our souls.
Then, we’ve had health challenges, financial scares, workplace dramas and dilemmas, job opportunities fall apart, and dreams crushed.
Maybe you’re battling depression. Maybe you’re emotionally drained. Maybe socially distant has meant socially isolated and you feel lonely.
We have much reason from our personal lives to be weary.
And these personal things would be reason enough to be weary in any given year. But when you combine our personal difficulties and tragedies with the election and the pandemic, there’s a level of weariness that I think many of us have not known before.
We are weary.
And we hear Paul say, “let us not grow weary,” but we say, “too late! We’re already there.”
Because, if we’re honest with ourselves today, many of us are. We might hide it well. We might deny that it’s there, trying to run away from it. But it’s there. We are a weary people.
We are weary.
What are we to do about it?
The typical response to weariness is withdrawal. We’re not concerned about what Paul says here about sowing things of the flesh, reaping a harvest of corruption. It’s a good message. That’s what happens if we sin without repentance. We leave behind a legacy for others of that sinfulness, leaving our families to pick up the pieces. That’s not what saints do. That’s not what we should do.
But when we’re weary, as we are, we’re not sowing of our flesh. We’re in fact not sowing at all. We’re not preparing for a harvest because there is none.
That’s because when we’re weary, the temptation is to withdraw from life. Hide in our holes. Stay at home as much as possible, stop being social with others, turn off the news and tune out the world. Withdrawal, not sin, is our response to the weariness.
Withdrawing simply means removing ourselves from as much of life as possible. Perhaps we stop being emotionally available to people. When called and asked for support from a family member or friend, we tune them out and politely get off the phone as fast as possible, instead of offering that support, because we just don’t have the emotional wherewithal to deal with it.
Or perhaps we stop volunteering or refuse to take on new opportunities to give of our time. It’s just too much. Being around people is just too much.
Or, maybe, we’re just sad all the time. Or irritable all the time. Everything pricks at us and makes us annoyed. And so we’re grumpy and difficult with those who love us; those we love. We find it difficult to show others kindness. Often, this is an indicator of depression.
And the temptation when we’re depressed is to withdraw. Stop showing people care and concern. Refuse to be emotionally available to offer support. Withdraw from things that used to bring us joy and from things that we did to serve others because it’s too taxing, too demanding, and we might just not care anymore.
Perhaps that’s the greatest sign of weariness: we stop caring about the things that we used to care about. We might even stop caring so much about the people we used to care about.
We withdraw. We hear Paul say, “let us not grow weary,” but it’s too late. We’re there. We confess together this morning that we’re there, withdrawn and weary.
We are weary.
Today is All Saints Day. We remember those church members who passed away in the last year but we also bring to mind those saints in our lives, both the living and especially those who have gone on from this life. There are folks whose memory we hold close to us, perhaps parents, perhaps a beloved grandparent, maybe a friend, maybe a family member taken from us too soon, maybe a close friend or a mentor, who made a huge difference in our lives. All of us are holding the memory of someone close today. We are still reaping the harvest they left us, spending the interest earned from the deposits of good works they made.
For these saints did so much good. They left us with a wealth of wisdom. We know how to act, we make better decisions, we can provide for our families, because of them. Not only this, but we are inspired to live into their example, doing as much good as possible. Fair to say, they are the embodiment for us of that John Wesley quote: “do all the good you can by all the means you can in all the ways you can as long as you ever can.”
But if you could go back and ask these saints you’re remembering today if they thought they had done lots of good things, they would undoubtedly say no. They would just say they had done their small part. They would just say they had done what they knew to be right, just as Paul says in verse 9. They wouldn’t think much at all of their good actions.
If you could tell them of all the good you derive from their lives, all the ways you seek to live into the example they set, all of the ways you are better because they were in your life, they would undoubtedly be humbled, perhaps sheepish, and think that you were grossly overstating things. They wouldn’t think much at all of their good actions.
And yet, all the things we would say to these saints we’re remembering today are true. All the good they did in this life has left a bountiful harvest for us. All the ways they set the example have provided in spades for us.
If we think back over the lives of those saints, I imagine they grew weary at times. Perhaps you can even think of specific times where they grew weary. But, they did not withdraw. They did not succumb to that temptation.
Instead, they kept doing good. They took every opportunity to work for the good of all, and especially for their families and the family of faith. They kept doing good, even when they grew weary.
And because they did, you reap a harvest from their good actions.
God grows the good we do exponentially. That’s Paul’s message to the churches in Galatia. That’s Paul’s message to us today. That’s the message the saints have for us today. Their lives prove it is true: God grows the good we do exponentially.
Paul tells the churches in Galatia, and us today, “let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (6:9-10)
We will reap a harvest. Just as the saints we remember this day left us a harvest of good from which we continue to reap, we can do the same for those who come behind us and even for those around us this day.
When we do a good act, when we take the opportunities that present themselves to work for the good, as Paul says, it might not feel like we’re doing much at the time. But the fact that we have chosen to do good, to keep doing good, even when we feel weary, even when we’d rather withdraw, means that God will take our good and grow it.
When we do good, we plant seeds. God grows those seeds into a harvest far beyond our imaginations. And it’s those we love who reap that harvest. God grows the good we do exponentially.
It’s just like an interest-bearing account. We save for our own security, sure, but our savings also reap a harvest for those we love. When we put money into our retirement, or into a college savings account, we provide for those we love. And the money we put in grows exponentially, leaving a much larger return, or a much larger harvest, than just what we deposited.
Consider a $200 investment. If we invest it and leave it alone at a return of eight percent a year for ten years, it’s more than doubled to $431. So, if we spend that $200 today, we miss out not only on that $200 for the future, but we and those we love also miss out on the $231 it could have earned for us.
That’s what happens if we withdraw from this life: we spend the $200 and thus those we love and those who come behind us miss out on a bountiful harvest.
The saints you’re remembering this day invested far more than $200 in the good they did, and you’re the beneficiary of far more than just double what they gave you. God took their good actions and multiplied them exponentially. God does the same for us.
That is why we must not withdraw or, as Paul says, we must not give up. When we withdraw from this life, when we refuse to be social or emotionally available, when we stop giving charitably, when we refuse to give of our time to volunteer, when we try and hide in our holes and avoid people and avoid being needed, we not only fail to do a particular good thing, we fail to give God the opportunity to multiply the good that we do.
We might be weary. But God calls us to keep doing good. Because God grows the good we do exponentially.
What we do today, what we do tomorrow, and what we do the day after that, can either leave a legacy of good, upon which God will build, or we can be withdrawn: we can give up, leaving nothing, no legacy, nothing for God to build upon.
This has been a wearisome year, no doubt. We have so much reason to be weary.
But no matter how weary you feel, don’t give up. Let us seize every opportunity to do good. Let us not give up but press on, running the race with perseverance, just as the saints in our lives taught us.
That means, when we’re grumpy but we give emotional support when asked for it, God takes the good that we did and grows it exponentially.
When we’re sullen and just want to be left alone but we go help a friend in need, God takes the good that we did and grows it exponentially.
When we’re just done and tired of being needed, but we go volunteer with Meals on Wheels or at the Food Bank anyway, God takes the good we did and grows it exponentially.
When we’re tired of being asked for money and feeling pinched financially but we give faithfully to the church anyway, God takes the good we did and grows it exponentially.
When we’re over our family and its drama but we go help a relative in need anyway, God takes the good we did and grows it exponentially.
When we hear an opinion we despise politically, weary of this election, but we show grace to that person anyway, God takes the good we did and grows it exponentially.
And not just now. But for the future, too. The good we do in this life continues to grow and mature even after we’re gone because it grows and matures in the lives of those we left behind; especially our children, grandchildren, close friends, and those we’ve mentored. The Greeks were fond of saying, “as long as they speak your name, you never really die.” For us today, we know that reality because we’re speaking the names of the saints we hold dear, the people who made deposits of good in our lives over and over again and we’re still benefitting from the legacy, the interest if you will, of those good works.
We’re reaping the harvest of the good our saints sowed within us. God grew the good they did exponentially. God will do the same for us when we choose to not give up, not withdraw, but do good whenever we have an opportunity.
So let’s be saints for those who come behind us. Let us not give up because of our weariness but instead seize every opportunity to do good. Then, we will leave a harvest for those we love; a legacy of good works.
That’s the message this morning. God grows the good we do exponentially. So no matter how weary you are today, don’t give up. Don’t withdraw. Keep doing good.
Let us endure. As the saints before us this morning have shown us, let us run the race with perseverance, knowing that Christ is running with us.
For when we do, we leave behind a rich harvest for those we love. We can be saints for others if we will do as the saints we remember did: don’t give up, press on, seize every opportunity to do good.
For God will take the good we do and grow it exponentially.
So no matter what happens, no matter how wearisome things are, don’t give up.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.