Follow My Example?
Father's Day 2018 Matthew 10:40-42
A successful man was driving his new car through a poor part of town... when a pre-teen boy tried to flag him down.
The man didn’t want to get involved, so he pretended he didn’t see the boy. But as he slowed down for a stop sign, he heard (and felt) a loud crash behind him. The boy had thrown a brick at the man’s car, denting the trunk.
Of course the man stopped, jumped out of his car and yelled at the boy, “You delinquent! You’ll pay for this or go to jail!”
At which point, the boy began to explain: “I’m sorry, mister, but my mom’s lying on the floor in our apartment. I think she’s dying. Our phone’s cut off and I’ve been trying and trying to get someone to stop, but no one would. I didn’t know what else to do! Take me to jail, but please, call a doctor for my mom first.”
The man was filled with shame. “I am a doctor!” he said... and he hurried off to tend to the boy’s mother, and called an ambulance.
“Will she be okay?” the boy sobbed. “Yes, son, she’ll be okay,” the doctor said. The boy said, “Then it’s worth going to jail. I’m sorry I ruined your car.”
“You’re not going to jail...” the doctor said. “It was my fault you had to throw a brick to get my attention.”
The doctor made sure the boy was taken care of, and as he drove home... he resolved not to fix the dent in his car. He would keep it as a reminder that not everyone in need has a brick to throw.
Our Gospel Lesson today reminds us of Golden Rule - “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." DO unto others... DO something...
A simple cup of cold water surely isn’t much... and doesn’t really cost us anything. It’s probably the very least we could ever hope to do in helping another person... and I think, that’s the point.
We CAN do something to help another... we can ALL do something to help someone in need. And that “something” might just be the very thing that brings life and hope to another person... no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to us.
Of course, today is Father’s Day. And as fathers, part of our responsibility is to see that our children, and grandchildren, grow into mature, adjusted, caring adults... who don’t think the world revolves around them. Easier said that done for sure... especially when so many of us act like the world revolves around us! (Did I actually say that? Tammy’s been telling me to stop thinking out loud... It must be a side effect of middle age or something!).
And, by the way... those of you who are thinking, “Whew... I’m off the hook today! I’m not a father!” NOT so fast my friends... not so fast...
As a covenant people... for Presbyterians... being a father/parent is a little different than it is in the world. In the church all men are fathers, because every time a child is baptized into the church the whole church promises to "nurture one another in the Christian faith and [to] include" the child being baptized in that nurturing. We also promise to “surround [the child] with a community of love and forgiveness” that he/she can grow in service and love to others...
So having made those promises before God - and in the presence of the family of faith - every Christian man and woman takes on the responsibility of doing their part in nurturing those entrusted to our care. That nurture goes beyond children. We are called to nurture each other in the church.
And, again... part of that nurturing, is teaching the children under our care, how to care for others.
Of course, we teach best, by example. Tradition tells us that St. Francis of Assisi said we're ALL called as Christians to “preach the Gospel, using words when necessary.” Actions always speak louder than words.
When our children and grandchildren see us “mad at the world” and envious and ungrateful, and unforgiving... it teaches them to be mad, envious and ungrateful, unforgiving people, too.
If they see us devote our lives to self... when making money is the only thing that’s important to us... or when all we do is look out for #1... it teaches them to do the same.
And much the same way: if we model compassion... thoughtfulness... If we (as God’s Word says) “consider the needs of others first” and if we “consider others better than ourselves” - then those who watch us, and learn from us, will learn the same.
If God... if honoring God... if loving Christ and His Church... are important to us, it’ll all come natural to our children, too.
We’ve been called by Christ himself to show compassion for others by caring for the sick, comforting those who mourn, loving the unlovable, etc. In fact, the teachings of Christ fly-in-the-face of our “me-first”, “me, myself and I”, “my 4 and no more”, self-centered culture. They always have, and always will.
Being righteous and faithful bring their own rewards... They bring the knowledge of a life well lived... a life that’s lost to the world, but found in Christ.
Because the call of Christ... is the call to love. It’s the call to offer compassion and mercy: “to DO unto others... to DO” - even unto those the world has deemed unworthy or unacceptable.
And Jesus has shown us how! Jesus set the example for us, didn’t he? Jesus NEVER said, “do as I say, but not as I do,” did he? He put his arms around lepers, ate with tax collectors and sinners... he forgave adulterers. The fact is: compassion was not only important to Jesus, it was at the very heart of being God! And it made no difference what-so-ever to Christ where such compassion took place, or to whom it was offered, or on what day it was offered.
And Christ calls us... you and me... to do no less.
Like it or not: Others are definitely watching us (our children and grandchildren are watching... our neighbors, and our enemies, are watching).
Of course, sometimes we’re the ones in need of a cup of water... because, the fact is... we all, at some point, find ourselves in need of kindness. Other times, we are the ones providing the cup of water.
How you and I respond to “the little ones” or the “least of these” - the powerless, the weak, the hurting, the abused, the abandoned, the elderly and vulnerable - speaks volumes about who and Whose we are.
Listen: let’s not go through life in such a way that someone has to throw a brick at us to get our attention! God speaks to us in a “still, small voice.” He whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes, when life “drowns out” God’s voice he has to throw a “brick” at us to get our attention. But when we choose to walk in Christ, those times, become few and far between.
Let’s follow Christ, because others are following us. Let’s strive to be the kind of people that care... people of purpose and compassion.
When we help others in the name of Christ, even in seemingly small ways, we have the power to bring them into a relationship with God, the power to show others God’s love by showing them our love, the power to bring them face to face with God by bringing them face to face with us.