Summary: Message # 2 in a series focusing on the Mission of Jesus to say and to show people, "Your Life Matters."
Message # 2: “Coming Face to Face with Jesus”
John 4:1-26; 39-42
Introduction: Ted Stallard’s story
This morning, I want to tell you the story of Ted Stallard. A young man who was turned off by school. Very sloppy in appearance. Expressionless. Unattractive. Slow. Often times he would simply sit in class and stare off into space, unresponsive, which was an irritation to his teacher. Miss Thompson, enjoyed bearing down her red pen -- as she placed big red X’s beside his many wrong answers. If only she had studied Ted’s school records more carefully. They read:
1st grade: Ted shows promise with his work and attitude, but (has) poor home situation.
2nd grade: Ted could do better. Mother seriously ill. Receives little help from home.
3rd grade: Ted is good boy but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died thisyear.
4th grade: Ted is very slow, but well-behaved. His father shows no interest whatsoever.
Christmas arrived. The children piled elaborately wrapped gifts on their teacher’s desk. Ted brought one too. It was wrapped in brown paper and held together with Scotch Tape.Miss Thompson opened each gift, as the children crowded around to watch. Out of Ted’s package fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet, with half of the stones missing, and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker. But she silenced them by splashing some of the perfume on her wrist, and letting them smell it. She put the bracelet on too. At day’s end, after the other children had left, Ted came by the teacher’s desk and said, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother. And the bracelet looks real pretty on you. I’m glad you like my presents." He left.
Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her and to change her attitude. The next day, the children were greeted by a reformed teacher -- one committed to loving each of them. Especially the slow ones. Especially Ted.
Surprisingly -- or maybe, not surprisingly, Ted began to show great improvement. He actually caught up with most of the students and even passed a few. Graduation came and went. Miss Thompson heard nothing from Ted for a long time. Then, one day, she received this note:
Dear Miss Thompson:
I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class.
Four years later, another note arrived:
Dear Miss Thompson:
They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it. Love, Ted
And four years later:
Dear Miss Thompson:
As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now; Dad died last year. Love, Ted
Miss Thompson attended that wedding, and sat where Ted’s mother would have sat. The compassion she had shown that young man entitled her to that privilege.
Every day we come in contact with people like Ted. However, for some, the hurt doesn’t always show on the outside. Some people wear a mask to cover the invisible pain that exists just beneath the surface of their lives. It may be your next door neighbor - a member of your family - a spouse - a friend – a co-worker- or maybe even the person sitting next to you right now. Some of you here today are living every day in private pain that is eating away at your soul. The pain can be caused by many things including personal sin, rejection, addictions, abuse, betrayal, and many other failures both personal and moral. You may be thinking, “If my fake smile and façade came down someone found out about this, would they still care for me?” Some are even wondering, “Does anyone care for me?”