Do good in all the ways you can

Published 2:24 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2022

I hope you aren’t like me, at least when it comes to pondering the pain of the world.  Sometimes, the pain I see as a pastor, or just as a human being, feels like its too much to bear.  It threatens to consume me.  Just last night, I found myself weeping at something I had read earlier in the day. According to Oxfam, an organization committed to ending poverty, approximately 11 people die every minute from starvation. Before you put this paper down because you don’t want to read about starving people, I’m asking you to stick around for a bit longer.  The deaths of the 11 people in the last minute it took you to read this far deserve your emotional attention.

You might be asking yourself, “What happened to that Easter joy?” I wonder that sometimes, too.  There’s a common theme in the Easter prayers of The Episcopal Church: Jesus Christ has defeated death! There’s also St. Paul who, in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, offered this rallying cry: “Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?”

You wouldn’t be wrong if you said those prayers and Scriptures brim with Easter joy.  Death is defeated! Life is victorious! Beauty and Love have won!

Another 11 people have died if you’ve made it this far. Which, if we are truly honest with ourselves, means that death is still gaining victories and stinging all those in the world with its venom of pain and despair.

In the world we live in, the only way we can hold onto an untainted joy is to ignore the pain, shy away from the death, and pretend that the smallness of our lives can’t make a difference. I know this sounds harsh.  I felt it when I typed it.  But I’m convinced it’s true.

Last night, as I was preparing for sleep, I wept for those who died from lack of food. I told my wife how overwhelming the thoughts were when she reminded me that I am but one person who can still make a difference right here in Washington.  Then I thought of a quote attributed to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Is there a better articulation of how we can respond to crises and calamity that feels too big? Certainly not.  Wesley was right.  Just do the best with what you can when you can.  Perhaps that is how death loses its victory and sting.  When people like you and me refuse to let the pain of the world keep us down, then death is rendered dead.  When people like you and me remember that the countless dead had families, and stories, and we promise to work for a better tomorrow, death is rendered null and void, impotent in its attempts to break our spirits.

That is my Easter joy.  Knowing that the good that I can do, however small it may be, is playing a part in defeating the forces of death, hell, and the grave one last time…knowing all of this keeps me going. How are you going to play your part in destroying death’s sting? It begins with doing even just a little bit of good.

Chris Adams is the Rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.