Sermon Illustrations on The common Good


The Early Church Pursuit of the Common Good

Pursuing the common good has been a strong marker of the Christian church from the very beginning. The early church had many habits that they became known for, of course—including meeting frequently, eating together, and memorizing texts. But they also became known for their relentless pursuit of the common good of their local communities: visiting the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned; receiving and feeding travelers; generously contributing to common funds that went toward caring for the poor, replenishing stocks of food and clothing, and feeding needy people.

Christians in the early church busied themselves pursuing the common good of their communities. Throughout the centuries the church kept talking about this core calling. In The Epistle of Barnabas, an early Christian writing from the end of the first century, we read these words: “Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already [fully] justified, but gather instead to seek together the common good.”

John Chrysostom, the famed preacher in Constantinople, preached about the common good in the early 400s: “This is the rule of the most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good . . . for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors.”

From Augustine to Aquinas, from Catholics to Protestants, Christians across the ages and denominations have repeated this call to pursue the common good. As a result, Christians throughout the centuries have stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest of humanity, leaving an enduring positive mark on their world.

Any objective historian investigating the effects of Christians throughout history will be overwhelmed with this enduring legacy of shared work throughout society: in the arts, literacy, education, human rights, health care, literature, science, justice, rule of law, and more.

Taken from The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good by Don Everts Copyright (c) 2020 by Don Everts. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


Pay it Forward Coffee

There’s a coffee shop in Bluffton, SC named The Corner Perk. Bluffton is near Charleston. In 2012, a woman who wished to remain anonymous handed the owner a hundred-dollar bill and said she wanted to pay for everyone’s coffee until the money ran out. And the woman returned six or seven times, plunking down more money to pay for people’s coffee and scones.

“People will come in and say, ‘What do you mean? I don’t understand.  Are you trying to buy me a coffee today?’ said the shop’s owner Josh Cooke.  “And I say, ‘No, somebody came in…and left money to pay for drinks until it runs out.’”            

It took a while, but word spread around Bluffton about what this woman was doing. Now if you have a jaundiced view of human nature, you would think that people would stampede into the Corner Perk to score some free coffee. But what’s happened is that more and more customers have been leaving money to pay for other people’s drinks. What began as an anonymous act of creative generosity, has become contagious. And 11 years after this first woman’s generosity, it’s still going on – people are still plunking down money and paying for other peoples’ coffee. So if you’re in Charleston, you could take a side trip to Bluffton and stop by The Corner Perk. Maybe you’ll get a free cup of coffee, and maybe you’ll want to be generous and pay for someone else’s drink.

Scott Bowerman, Source Material from Cord Jefferson, “People Are Awesome: The Coffee Shop Where Everyone Pays for Everyone Else’s Drinks,” in www.good.is, Jan. 10, 2012.

Pursuing the Common Good in Community

In 2017 Rebekah Morris was teaching English and journalism at Cross Keys High School, a public high school in Atlanta. Noticing that her students had really important, insightful things to say about their community, Rebekah created a group assignment for her ninth-grade students to research and write about how to pursue the common good in their community. Even though most of these students had only fifth- and sixth-grade reading levels, they wound up compiling a list of powerful insights, knowledge, and observations. They were, it turned out, experts on their own neighborhood.

Because their neighborhood is mostly composed of a series of apartments along Buford Highway on the north side of Atlanta, many of their insights centered on how to promote the well-being of those living in the apartments. The final class assignment was to present their ideas to the city council, mayor, community members, and stakeholders. And they did just that, presenting practical, wise ideas for improving affordable housing, pedestrian walkways, and more.

Their ideas were so spot-on that their presentation drew the attention of the local press: these ninth graders made people rethink what gifts were already planted all along Buford Highway. Rebekah and the students were so encouraged and empowered that they formed a club to keep the project going even after the class ended. Soon they were holding dinners in apartments to tap into the gifts and insights of those living in the various apartment complexes.

Neighbors shared their wisdom, leadership gifts began to blossom, residents got more connected to local agencies and government offices. As tangible improvements to the neighborhood mounted, an association, Los Vecinos (The Neighbors), was born and is now active in more than twenty apartment complexes. Rebekah and her students (and now hundreds of people living in their community) were simply doing what Genesis and Peter tell us we’re created and called to do: use every gift that God has given us and our neighbors. By tapping into the gifts God had already placed in the neighborhood the common good along Buford Highway has improved.

Taken from The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good by Don Everts Copyright (c) 2020 by Don Everts. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

When Vasili Arkhipov Saved the World

Everyone knows that during the Cuban Missile Crisis we were perilously close to WWIII and nuclear Armageddon. Most people don’t know how close we were. Or how much we owe to Vasili Arkhipov.

Arkhipov was second-in-command of the Soviet diesel-electric submarine B-59 during the Cuban Missile Crisis — one of four such subs sent into the waters near Cuba in 1962. He was a distinguished officer, having acquitted himself with great courage during the 1961 nuclear accident aboard the nuclear submarine K-19.

It’s hard to imagine the stress the crew was under. Submerged deep in the ocean, they were unable to receive any messages from home — or even the civilian American radio they had picked up earlier in their cruise. They could not know whether war had broken out or not above. Complicating matters, the sub was hot — really hot. Not only was the submarine not really designed to operate in warm waters like the Caribbean, but their extended time under the surface meant that batteries were running low, the air conditioning had failed (temperatures were in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit), and carbon dioxide was accumulating.

And then the American vessels on the surface decided to drop depth charges on them.  

During the Cold War, one of the tactics used by surface vessels when they detected a submarine was to drop signaling depth charges (practice depth charges) on the submarine. These low-powered charges aren’t dangerous, but they signaled to the submarine that “the game was up” and that they needed to surface.

So, with depth charges exploding in the water around them, the captain of the B-59 had to decide whether war had broken out on the surface and whether he was to carry out his orders in that event to launch nuclear torpedoes on American coastal cities.

The captain made the decision to launch and his political officer agreed. Had this order been carried out, thousands, maybe millions, of Americans would have instantly died in this first strike. Millions more, American and Soviet, would have died in the series of attacks and reprisals that would have followed.

Unusually, the agreement of the captain and political officer were not enough on the B-59. Arkhipov may have been second-in-command of the vessel, but he was also Commodore of the small fleet dispatched to Cuba. He had to agree, too. And he argued that they needed to wait for orders from Moscow.

The submarine surfaced and made contact with American destroyers and, receiving new orders from Moscow, returned home. His courageous dissent prevented nuclear disaster.

William Rowley

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