Summary: A sermon for a Community Thanksgiving Service

“Jesus Lives in East Ridge”

Matthew 25:31-46

Some of you are involved in a Monday Evening Feeding Program, where at 4 p.m. we meet in the gym at East Ridge United Methodist Church and make sack lunches to take out to our hungry friends and neighbors.

We mostly take the meals to the extended stay hotels in East Ridge, but we also go to an apartment complex and deliver to some folks who live in Camp Jordan and other areas.

A week ago this past Monday, my 12 year old daughter and I were delivering meals to one of the East Ridge Extended Stay Motels where we regularly go, and the need seemed greater than ever.

A number of people asked for extra meals.

All the people, were, as they always are very friendly and thankful for the food.

We knocked on one door and there was a completely naked little kid—maybe 3 or 4 years old standing in the room.

The people, who, I would guess were his parents didn’t act as if this was unusual at all; they just let the kid stand there with the door wide open.

They said, “We are so glad you are here.

We didn’t know what we were going to do for food tonight!!!”

At other rooms, smells that must have been either meth or crack cocaine came out as soon as doors were opened.

This particular motel has regular prostitution busts.

At one room a woman and a man had been laying on a bed.

The man said he didn’t want any food, and as we started walking away the woman said: “I do,” as she jumped up off the bed and came running for a bagged meal.

Some rooms have families living in them—with 5 or 6 kids.

You never know what you are going to encounter.

Not only is it “eye opening” to take meals to the hotels and the homeless of East Ridge but it is a huge blessing.

I really feel as if we are feeding Jesus in East Ridge on Monday nights.

And because of that, it makes me thankful to be able to take a small part.

In our Gospel Lesson from Matthew Chapter 25 Jesus tells us that when He returns “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate [us] one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

The sheep are gathered on the right side of Christ—the side of approval and honor, and the goats on the left side—for condemnation.

And the criteria for judgement may be astonishing for some of us.

Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about their creeds or their standing in the community.

He doesn’t ask them what denomination they are.

But instead: “What have you done for the poor family down the street?

Ever make any visits to the local jail?”

The hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the physically afflicted, the oppressed, the poor…

…what have we done or not done for them?

The clear message is that God so intimately identifies with human beings that to care for another person is to care for Him.

To ignore the plight of another is to ignore Jesus Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I sure am thankful that Jesus cares so deeply about those of us who are hurting.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus is continually healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, touching the lepers, feeding the hungry, showing love to the marginalized—the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the demon possessed, even persons called Samaritans and Gentiles—people of different ethnicities and religions.

Last year a few of us from East Ridge United Methodist Church, Ascension Lutheran Church and Jones Memorial felt God calling us to start a Fully Operational Food Pantry here in East Ridge.

At first it seemed impossible.

We didn’t have much of any money, and we didn’t seem to have enough people to get it going.

There was a time when I was sure it was not going to happen.

But, The East Ridge Community Food Pantry opened in March of this year, and over the past nine months you have fed approximately 3,000 people.

Some people think miracles don’t happen anymore.

But they happen all the time, and when we seek to follow Jesus we find ourselves right in the middle of them.

This gives me a reason to be thankful.

How about you?

Each one of the churches represented here tonight support the East Ridge Community Food Pantry, and are uniquely involved in this community.

Ascension Lutheran Church has what they call “The Little Free Pantry.”

This past summer, Jones Memorial United Methodist Church started a summer feeding program in the gym.

They also give between 150 and 200 winter coats annually to both Spring Creek and East Ridge Elementary schools.

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