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Summary: A semon about serving in spite of fear.

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Deuteronomy 15:4, 7-8,10-11

Luke 4:14-21

Recently I read an article about a church in California that has adopted its local high school, the roughest in a rough city.

Now what do I mean by “adopted”?

You see, 40 percent of the students at Centennial High School in Compton, California, are from either a group home or foster home.

So these students don’t have any adult who will cheer for their football team.

When two of the church members volunteered to help coach the football team, they were appalled by the state of the locker rooms, so they organized their church to refurbish and paint them.

One of the kids on the football team, asked a church member why she was painting his locker room.

The woman simply said, “Because I love you.”

“No one loves me,” was his skeptical response.

At that the woman set down her paintbrush and went over to the young man and hugged him.

“No one has hugged me in 7 years,” he replied, not knowing exactly what to do with this woman.

But she wasn’t done yet.

She called over a dozen other women, and they lined up to hug this young man, to kiss him on his cheek, to tell him how special he was to God, and that he had a destiny.

The boy just wept and wept.

After that, the pastor of the church, started lining up 15 adults to adopt each football player and to go to their games to cheer for them, so that they can each know how special they are to God.

And this is what each and every one of us need to know more than anything else in all the world…that we are special to God.

Recently, I was speaking to a teacher at East Ridge Middle School who told me that, due to the shifting in our city,

80% of the children at that school are on free or reduced lunches due to the fact that they come from families that live well below the poverty line.

At a East Ridge Ministerial Meeting this past week, another pastor shared with me that the number is 93% at Spring Creek Elementary just across the street from us.

And many of the students who go to Spring Creek live in hotels, such as the crack infested Superior Creek Lodge just down the road.

What are we to do about this?

According to our Gospel Lesson for this evening, the mandate for we—Jesus’ followers is clear.

Our Lord defined our mission in his inaugural message at Nazareth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, and to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And Jesus has already given us the “action items” that will be the measures of evaluation on God’s final exam: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for the poor and oppressed.

As a matter of fact, it has been said that if the Gospel “is not working to benefit the poor and oppressed, then it is not the gospel!”

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s Book, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity,” should be a jolting wake-up call for the Church.

Kinnaman and Lyons say, “The image of the Christian faith has suffered a major setback.

Our most recent data show that young outsiders have lost much of their respect for the Christian faith.

These days nearly two of every five young outsiders (38 percent) claim to have a bad impression of present-day Christianity.”

I was speaking with some colleagues about this, and we were all in agreement that we, the Church are at fault for this—not the unbelieving world.

If we were to truly live out our calling according to Jesus Christ to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our homes, our communities, and the outermost places of the world…

…the church could rediscover and reclaim the message and mission of Jesus…

…which is a lifestyle of sacrificial mission, giving ourselves for God’s redemptive work in the world!!!

And when we live like this, not only the lives of the people around us changed, our lives are changed as well!!!

It’s been said that many Christians dismiss God’s call to mercy and sacrificial giving by quoting Jesus’ Words in John 12: “You will always have the poor among you…” as if that were God’s will.

But if we look back to the Scripture in Deuteronomy 15 which Jesus quoted from we see the context of this statement.

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