James is convicting us even more today than he did last week. At the end of last week’s reading from James we heard that genuine religion in God’s sight is caring for the poor, the orphans, and the widows. These folks are the “others,” the ones we don’t like to be reminded about, the ones we try not to notice when we’re driving down the street or the highway, the “others.”
Have you ever been an “other?” To be an “other” you must be poor or homeless or unemployed and on food stamps or crippled or dirty or smelly or someone with AIDS or cancer or divorced or gay or suffered a great loss or just plain “different.” You know, one of those “others.”
When I was growing up sometimes I felt like an “other.” It never seemed like the family had much spending money to buy any of the “good” things other people had. Sometimes Mom would even tell me we were poor. But I always had clothes and food to eat so I wasn’t suffering. Growing up on the farm I never met anyone who was homeless or unemployed or was “different” than me.
It wasn’t until I went into the Army that I came into contact with the “others.” In Germany I met folks who living on the fringes of society. Panhandlers some folks called them, begging or asking for change, anything so they could buy something to eat. Of course we knew that they were really going to buy cigarettes or booze.
I spent a night in a shelter in Augusta, GA once just because it was cheap and I could get a free breakfast the next morning. Of course we had to attend worship before we could eat. I met a few folks that morning who were really poor, and who I thought were just a little bit strange, definitely “others.”
So, we’ve got some pictures in our minds of the “others.” Are there “others” living in Walnut? Are there “others” living in Avoca? Are there any “others” who come off the Interstate into McDonald’s or Kum and Go? There are most certainly “others” in CB and Omaha.
James talks to us today of “others” and Jesus comes face to face with two “others.” In fact one of the “others” has a pretty convincing debate with Jesus and because of the strength of her argument he cures her daughter of her demonic possession.
It sounded as if Jesus was here first for his own, people who were like him, people who went to the synagogue, people who were the “chosen.” And then if there was anything left, any crumbs, then the “others” could be helped.
Because of this women Jesus learned that he was here not only for the “chosen” but also for the “others,” the unclean ones.
So, friends, why are we here? What are we supposed to do with what we’ve heard this morning? Is this message, in the epistle and the gospel, pointed directly at us? Do the words of James and Mark make us a little uncomfortable?
The question that can only be answered individually is this, “How are we helping those “others” living in our communities?” Are we inviting them to come to worship with us? Do they see the love of Jesus in our eyes when we meet them in McDonalds or on the street or outside Kum and Go?
I think as we look deep within our hearts and souls we have to admit that we’re not doing near enough. Oh, there are some who are providing help that none of us is aware of but the majority of us aren’t doing near enough. We know we could do more. We know that Jesus asks us and expects us to do more.
There are opportunities presented to us every day. Somehow, some way, we need to take time to let God open our eyes, our hearts, to what he would have us do or where he would have us go.
I’m learning, and I know you are to, that we only have a limited amount of time to get our acts together. Listen to God’s word for us. We are to be caring for the “others” who are everywhere. God expects us to do that.
This week I pray that as you go about your daily routines you take the time to notice the “others” and pray that God will reveal to you and me how we can help them.
Remember, tomorrow you could be one of those “others” and think how grateful you’d be when someone offered you a helping hand.May God grant us his grace, peace, and love as we journey through this life. Amen.