Sunday, September 6, 2009

Poor, Homeless, & Hungry Are Welcome Here

Last Sunday the Message was about what’s important to God. The theme of today’s scripture lessons continues along the same road.
James ended the first chapter by reminding his readers that what was important to God was reaching out to the homeless and the loveless and to guard against being corrupted by the world.
This morning the lessons from Proverbs, Psalms, James, and the gospel of Mark are more or less about the things that are priorities in God’s plan for his children. Ah, just who are God’s children? It seems like this question has been asked before.
In light of the Word you heard read this morning who would you say are the beloved children of God? Who are those who will inherit the kingdom of God, you and me?
It doesn’t sound like it to me. What I heard was it belongs to those who are down and out who have been chosen to be the first in the kingdom. Friends, I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not you and me. To me it’s more likely to be someone who may be living on the street or very close to it. It’s more apt to be someone who is receiving federal assistance to pay their rent and buy the necessities of life like food and utilities. That’s not anyone I see sitting here this morning.
Now that sounds a little harsh to me and maybe does to you too. But think about who Jesus hung out with and the kind of people he ministered to. It wasn’t those who had everything they needed. No, it was those who were living the hard scrabble life on the edges of society, prostitutes, rebels against the oppressors, adulterers, thieves, fishermen, and tax collectors. Not anyone like I see sitting here today.
Do you know anyone who is poor? Do you know anyone who is struggling to make their rent every month? Do you know someone who needs help with just living? Do you know anyone who is almost homeless? Are any of your neighbors one of these people?
Friends, they’re living in Walnut. How do I know? I know because I talk to them. Sometimes they ask for help but most times they are too proud to ask. I only hear from them when they’ve exhausted every other avenue of help. And that’s really sad.
I wish they’d call the church first. Don’t you? It would be so much easier to help someone pay bills before the electricity is turned off and the gas shut off. But it doesn’t usually work that way.
There are poor, there are folks who don’t have much living here. They are most times too embarrassed to ask us for help. Maybe they think we’d think they weren’t worthy. Or maybe they think we think they should be able to pull themselves up by their boot straps, get themselves out of the pickle they’re in. It doesn’t always work that way though. Sometimes, in fact most times, they, we, need a hand, your hand, or my hand, any hand that reaches out to them in love, without judging or condemning them for being where they’re at right now.
What if we choose to do nothing? What if we walk on the other side of the street? What if we just shrug our shoulders and tell them we can’t help them today but, “Hey, God loves you and so do I?” What’s that get them? What’s that get us?
It doesn’t help them a bit and we get condemned because we did nothing, actually we did worse than that. We brought the Name into it.
What did Jesus say, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself?” So if we tell them God loves them how does that help? The truth is it doesn’t. And that’s the point James was making. The early church wasn’t treating the poor very well. In fact, they really wished they wouldn’t come into the meeting place to worship. They smelled bad and their clothes were rags. Shoot, our churches don’t always treat the poor very well either.
So how do we change our actions? What can we do to help those who need help but don’t always come forward and ask for it?
Tell them where they can go for aid. Tell them about the food pantry in Avoca open every Monday afternoon from 4-6. Tell them about the Good Guys who will help them pay their utilities at least once to help tide them over. Offer to help them any way you can. Give them a ride, take them a hot meal, visit with them, maybe they need help caring for children or a mom or a dad. Maybe they do just need to know there’s someone out there who isn’t judging them.
Remember, friends, God made us all, the rich and the poor, the have’s and the have not’s and we all depend on him for our needs.
We are all called to ministry to care for God’s children as he enables us. Today God has issued his call to care for his children. How are you going to answer?
September 20th there is a Walk-A-Thon in Omaha from Gallup University to the Open Door Mission, about a mile. The cost to walk is $19.20. And sure you have to walk a mile and it’s not quite the same as helping someone here at home but it may be just what we need to get us off to a different path of mission.
And then there’s the basket at the back of the church. It’s there to be filled with items for the food pantry. It’s been kind of empty for awhile.
Friends, these are only two things that came into my brain. Go to God and listen to him. This week one of the scriptures I read called us the road upon which God walks. Think about that. Where are we going to take God this week? Where does God want us to go? Who does he want us to help? Let those with ears, listen.
Friends, God loves you and so do I. Thanks be to God for his wondrous grace. Amen.

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