Summary: A sermon about serving with the poor.

"Learning from One Another; Serving with One Another"

James 2:1-10

Last week a man in his mid-to-late 30's came to my office for help.

He is a drug addict.

His problems started when he became an alcoholic while serving in the Army.

Eventually, he moved on to Crack.

He eventually was arrested for possession of Cocaine and was kicked out of the army.

His continual drug use eventually ruined his marriage, and has pretty much estranged him from his family.

He was high on meth when he was talking with me.

He told me that meth is all he thinks about.

He can't control himself.

He has been in and out of many drug treatment programs...

...but as soon as he gets out and has some cash--he buys drugs.

He can't hold down a job.

He is homeless, but sometimes lives at the Superior Creek Lodge or what used to be the Days Inn...

...sometimes he is at the Waverly Motel located behind Mapco.

He told me that he is thinking that he "needs God."

And that maybe if he "has" God he will be able to kick the drugs--although, he's not entirely sure he wants to kick them since he loves the feeling of getting high so much.

He told me that he's not sure that he believes Jesus is the Way, but he believes in a "higher power."

He says he's interested in Christianity because Christians seem to be happy and he is not happy.

I invited him to come to church last Sunday.

He said he would come.

He didn't.

This church is within close walking distance from 3 extended-stay Hotels that are known to be infested with drugs.

One of the hotels, is served very well by the cooperative ministry we have with a few other churches called "East Ridge Cares 4 Kids."

I wrote about it in my Newsletter article for this month.

In it, I noted that last year, altogether, 1,420 children were served in one way or another by East Ridge Cares 4 Kids.

Isn't that wonderful and amazing?

When we started this ministry nearly 4 years ago, I envisioned the parents of the children we serve coming to church.

I thought that, by now, these pews would be filled to capacity by folks who live at the lodge and in many of the homes surrounding this church building.

"Serve them and they will come" I thought.

As you know, we have a small food pantry here.

Many, many people from the Superior Creek Lodge, and some others from the surrounding community regularly come here to get some of the few canned goods, macaroni and cheese, and maybe a loaf of bread and peanut butter.

It's an important ministry which I believe Christ is calling us to do.

Every person who comes to the church asking for help with food...

...well, I invite them to church.

I can't think of one person who has come to church after having been served by the food pantry.

Now, please don't get me wrong.

We are supposed to have a food pantry, and I believe East Ridge Cares 4 Kids is one of the most important and vital things we do...

...but notice the word "we" in that statement?

And of course, when it comes to East Ridge Cares 4 Kids, the "we" includes a number of "YOU" along with a person from a local Church of God, some Baptist folks, people from other Methodist Churches and a big group of people from Christ United Methodist Church.

What if some of the people in the "we" statement included parents and other adults from Superior Creek Lodge?

Why doesn't it?

Can it?

I was having this conversation with a ministry colleague of mine last week, and he made this statement: "How can we (and by 'we' he includes all mainline churches)... How can we be in ministry with people instead of just serving them?"

After that conversation, I spoke to a Lutheran Pastor friend of mine who said: "You know the old saying, 'Give a person a fish and they eat for a day.

Teach a person to fish and they eat every day.

But in both circumstances the one teaching and the one giving is in a higher position than the one receiving.

Why can't we sit down and fish together?"

I don't know if that's a perfect analogy of what I'm trying to get at, but what I'm trying to say is that serving is the life-blood of what it means to be a Christian... increases our faith... makes us more like Jesus... teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves... empowers us... gives our life meaning... brings us hope... is what we ALL need to be doing--including the folks living at the Superior Creek Lodge, the folks living at Camp Jordan, the people living under bridges, the crack addict, the meth dealer, the abuser, the broken, the lost.

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