Summary: It’s a message on serving people, finding God’s purpose for your life, making a difference.


TEXT: Isaiah 58: 5-10

Sunday, November 3, 2002

Let me begin with a story, and as I read it, ask yourself, “Who are you? Who are you in this story?”

There were a bunch of men gathered at the YMCA talking about athletes, salaries, families, local gossip and so on. At one point, one of the men said, “When it comes right down to it, we are all basically selfish. We take care of Number One and the heck with everyone else.” Another man quietly responded, “I don’t agree with you that we are all that way, and I’ll tell you why. I stopped recently to get my paper at a convenience store like I do every day. I’ve known the man who sold me that paper for years, but one day he had tears in his eyes and I asked him why. The store owner said, “Do you see that bus bench over there? There’s a woman who comes every day around this time. She sits there for about an hour knitting and waiting. Buses come and go, but she never gets on and no one ever comes off for her to meet. The other day I took her a cup of coffee and sat with her for awhile. Her only son lives a long way away. She last saw him about two years ago when he boarded one of the buses right there. He is married now and she has never met her daughter-in-law or seen their new child. She told me, ‘It helps to come here and wait. I pray for them as I knit little things for the baby, and I imagine them in their little tiny apartment, saving money to come home. I can’t wait to see them.”

The man at the YMCA said, “The store owner took a deep breath and told me that he had just looked out the window and there were the woman’s son and his family getting off the bus. When they fell into her arms, the look on her face was the nearest thing to pure joy he had ever seen. ‘I’ll never forget the look on her face as long as I live,’ said the store owner. The next day when I returned to the store my friend was behind the counter and before he could say anything, I asked him, ‘You sent her son the money for the bus ticket, didn’t you?’ The store owner looked back at me with eyes full of love and a smile and replied, ‘Yes, I sent him the money.’ The man at the Y told his friends, ‘I’ll never forget the look on his face.”

In that story, who are you? Which one represents your life? Are you like the men at the YMCA who categorize people as largely selfish, and they included themselves in that description–people who simply live for the day and try to take care of their own business and live on a subsistence level. If so, I characterize that person as a cartoon with no color. It’s life, and we are getting the basics down, but there’s not a whole lot of liveliness to the person.

Or are you the man in the story who has experienced the joy of the store owner who was moved and touched by a very heartwarming story, but notice that the story is not his own. He is simply passing on a story that he has heard. He is not the person in the story itself, however. That’s like a cartoon which is done in color and has life and passion in it, but the reality is that the person himself has made no difference in these people’s lives.

Or are you the store owner. Notice the difference in the experience of life. The man telling the story was warmed by it, but the man who made a difference in this woman’s life and joy he experienced is like a cartoon which comes alive and makes a difference. Is that you?

Who do you want to be? Do you want to live and experience life as more than a two-dimensional character on a page without color? Do you want to experience the life and vitality of God? Do you want to be the cartoon that has color in it? Or do you want to be like the man who experienced the joy and color of God in his life and who then brought it into other people’s lives and made a difference. Is that who you want to be? Do you want to experience hope, meaning and purpose in your life–the purpose that comes from touching other people’s lives? Then I invite you to come off the couch and stop watching life pass you like you watch it on a TV set. Involve yourself in the lives of others and make a dif-ference.

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