Summary: First of a series based on the Johannine letters: our response to overwhelming need is first of all a discovery of who we are; then a commitment to maximum effort; and finally a discovery of where our passion lies. This will energize us.
I invite you today on an imaginary trip. Let’s walk through
just one day in a needy world. Just imagine a few hours in a
world that asks us for more than we can possibly give:
You are awakened early by the phone’s insistent ringing; you
hear the voice of a member of your family. He needs money.
So what else is new? Whenever he calls, he needs money.
When you’ve settled that, you fix a cup of coffee and flip on
the television to catch the morning news. Stocks are down,
way down, again. Terrorist threats are up, way up, again.
The president says that he needs a billion dollar bailout for
displaced workers and a multibillion dollar reorganization for
homeland security. We’ll have to raise taxes. Read Bush
junior’s lips! Many new taxes!
As you get ready for the day, you scan yesterday’s mail,
which you had tossed aside. There were address labels
from the Audubon Society, with a request for a donation.
There was a calendar from the National Center for Children
and Families; a contribution would be appreciated. At the
bottom of the stack, the Christian Children’s Fund has sent
you a picture of a child in Bolivia who needs shoes and
school supplies. You decide that you will read these again
tonight; not enough time to deal with them right now.
As you pick up the morning paper, there is a story about a
group of generous people who have built a Habitat for
Humanity house. You are thinking that you would never
have the time to do that, but it would be a good thing to do.
As you step into the Metrorail station, you turn to another
story about how the courts are looking for mentors to work
with ex-convicts, and you start to wonder what kind of guts
that would take, but your reverie is interrupted because
ahead of you at the Farecard dispenser is an elderly woman,
digging in her purse to scrape up a few coins for her fare. Is
she going to have enough? When you get on the train, you
go back to your newspaper, and decide to look very
absorbed in the op-ed page -- it’s intellectual, you know -- but
the columnist there is telling you that we must not forget the
plight of the oppressed in Sierra Leone. It’s depressing, all
this talk about starving people.
So you get off at the stop nearest your office. You know
which way to go, because if you go the other way, “he” will
be there. The guy who looks perfectly capable of working,
but who always carries a sign that says, “Homeless, please
help”. One day you gave a couple of quarters and he didn’t
even thank you.
When you get to your office, one of the secretaries is
standing at your desk with an envelope in hand.
Somebody’s grandmother died, and they are collecting for
flowers. Comes lunchtime, and one of your coworkers says,
“I really can’t leave right now. Would you pick up a sandwich
And when you finish lunch, late; and finish work, late; and
navigate past the street beggars; and ride the Metro,
crowded with a lot of people who look as though they need
something from somebody, you walk home, past the school
with a banner asking for tutors, past the church with a sign
urging you to attend worship, past the overgrown yard at the
house where the man had a heart attack last month. What a
joy to be home after such a day! Your loving family. Your
haven of rest in a world of needs. As you enter the house,
there they are. Ready to throw their arms around you and
welcome you: “Daddy, I need new shoes ... Husband, I need
some help in the kitchen ... Brother, I was wondering if you
And when all those demands are settled, not to mention the
telemarketer who wants you to sponsor two tickets to the
circus for needy children – when all the clamor is settled and
you are ready for bed, it’s time to take it all to the Lord, so
you call 202-723-9140. There is your pastor’s voice saying,
“Today I ask that you pray and ask the Lord to lead you to
supply our church’s need for Sunday School teachers,
committee members, grounds keepers, choir singers, tithe
givers, kitchen helpers –“
You do not hear the end of the message because you have
fallen asleep at the end of a demanding day. They need.
They all need. And they all need it from you.
For many of you this little fantasy is like a nightmare. It feels
awful. You feel guilty because you did not respond to all of
these demands. You feel drained because it seems