Summary: Seeing Jesus in the vulnerable.
"We Are Called to Imitate Jesus"
One cold morning when I was in high school I was dropped off early for basketball practice, and the doors to the school were locked.
A janitor who worked at the school opened the door for me and invited me into his office.
As I sat there, he got to talking to me about his childhood.
He told me that he grew up very poor.
His father had left when he was young and his mother had to raise him and his two sisters on her own.
As a child he often had to wear clothes to school that weren't the right fit, sometimes the pants he wore were hand-me-downs from his sisters; often he wasn't well-groomed.
He might not have smelled so good on some mornings.
One year, the night before Valentine's Day, his mother helped him make home-made cards for every child in his class-room because she couldn't afford to buy the pre-made cards that all the other kids had to hand out.
The next morning all the children handed out their Valentine's Day cards at school.
Everyone in the class got cards except for him.
He sat at his desk and wept.
The teacher, feeling sorry for him, allowed him to go home early from school that day.
This experience haunted him all his life.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, Jesus is teaching, or trying to teach His disciples that He will soon be killed, and then three days later rise from the dead.
And while this is going on His disciples are arguing with one another about which one of them is the greatest.
Instead of getting angry at them, we are told that Jesus sits down and calls them all over to Him.
Then He says, "Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all."
And in order to illustrate what He is teaching, He reaches for a little child, and embraces him.
Then Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn't actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me."
In this lesson Jesus uses a literal child in order to make His point.
In Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus speaks of the same kind of thing, but He talks about clothing those who are naked, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, giving a glass of water to the thirsty, and so on.
Then He says, "I assure you that when you have done it for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me."
So, the child in this passage doesn't just exclusively represent those who are young in years.
The child represents all those who are vulnerable and helpless.
The child also represents those who are forgotten, and even those who are the most ungracious, manipulative, and disagreeable.
Caring for and serving them is often difficult.
It can be painful.
It can take a lot of work, patience, time, extra attention.
As you all are well-aware, a week and a half ago, city officials knocked on the doors of approximately 1,500 people living at the Superior Creek Lodge, telling them that they had to leave immediately.
Many of these folks are the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable people in our midst.
They don't have the money to hire attorneys, demand their rights, sue or anything like that.
They have to do what they are told.
I was down at the lodge most of that Thursday night as people were being herded up, almost like cattle.
Many of those folks have lived at the Lodge for years.
All of their belongings are in those rooms.
Think about it this way: What would it be like for you if someone in authority were to knock on the door of your house and tell you that you must leave immediately--hit the streets--you're on your own--too bad, so sad?
How would you feel?
Add to that, the fact that you have been displaced, marginalized, over-looked and treated as less than human your entire life.
You have no money and no car.
You have children you are trying to take care of.
Perhaps you work at Burger King or McDonalds for $7.00 an hour and are never able to save any money.
Perhaps, paying the rent at the lodge and keeping your family in peanut butter and Spam takes all the money you have.
How would you feel?
What would this situation do to your already terribly desperate life-style?
How would you cope?
How in the world would you be able to deal with what was going on?
It's hard enough to raise a family when you have a decent income.
It's hard enough to move, when you have months to prepare and the ability to pay for a moving van.