Summary: A sermon about reaching out to those in need.
“Harassed and Helpless?”
Think about the times in your life when you have been the most free and happy.
For me, they are when I have been so focused on serving Jesus through serving others, that I have forgotten about myself.
Every Monday evening, about a dozen of you come together, prepare approximately 100 meals, and take them to people living in the nearby extended stay hotels, and to some people living under bridges, in Camp Jordan and near the Flea Market.
On Wednesdays, several of you spend the day preparing and then giving out food through the East Ridge Community Food Pantry here at the church.
This ministry serves approximately 50 persons per week.
Every day calls come in to this church from people who are at the end of their rope.
I’ve become so used to the sound of their desperate voices and sobs.
People need electric bills paid.
Many folks are past due on their rent payments and are about to be kicked out of their apartment or hotel room.
They are asking for help.
They are begging.
They are desperate.
Their stories just about break your heart.
Every day, people knock on the doors of this church building in dire need.
They are “harassed and helpless.”
Not long ago, one of you came to my office on a Monday morning.
You had stopped at McDonalds to get coffee.
On your way into the restaurant three people asked you for money.
A few weeks ago, someone called me at 8 O’clock in the morning.
His estranged wife had died the day before.
Their 9-year-old daughter found her laying on the couch, unresponsive.
The wife had left the man I was speaking with a few years before and was the main care-giver for their three children.
She made a small salary working at a local daycare.
Recently, she had been trying to get the man on the phone to pay up on his child support, but, since he was nearly homeless himself—only working an odd job here and there—he was unable to pay.
As he spoke to me, telling me his story, he admitted to being terribly lost, horribly depressed.
Although he is only in his 40’s, he was recently diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
He nearly died a few months ago.
He chain-smokes and also chews tobacco.
During our conversation, he told me that he was already on his second beer of the day.
Again, it was only 8 in the morning.
He was saying how he will now be the one who is fully responsible for taking care of his three children.
He also spoke about the need to get a life insurance policy on himself for his kids since he doesn’t expect to live very long.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there is no way any insurance company would sell him a life insurance policy.
As we spoke, I could feel the hopelessness of his situation.
I also felt a terrible sadness for his kids.
What would become of them?
What chance do they have in a world where so many have so much and so many more have so little—and there’s not enough sharing going on?
God takes a special interest in the poor and hurting, and God expects us to share that interest.
There are several thousand verses in the Bible which deal with the poor and God’s response to injustice.
In the New Testament, 1 out of every 16 verses is about the poor.
Because of the weight that the Bible gives this subject, it seems like there would be more focus on addressing poverty in American Christianity than there is.
Way too much time is spent arguing over dogma.
Way too much time is spent judging sins, and trying to figure out who is in and who is out.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, we get a beautiful description of what motivates Jesus to do what Jesus does.
Jesus has been moving from town to town teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing the sick and diseased.
And we are told that when Jesus “saw the crowds” when Jesus looked on the faces of the people He came across “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The description of “harassed and helpless” paints a picture of a predator and its prey, where the prey is continually mangled by the predator until it gives up trying to escape and just lies down and takes it.
And what is Jesus’ response to this mass of humanity in great need?
His response is “compassion.”
“He had compassion on them.”
Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for the plight of another, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”