Summary: A sermon about priorities.
"What's Better than a Big Bank Account?"
This past Thursday, I was busy...busy, busy, busy...
...well, what else is new?
Anyhow, someone knocks on the church door.
He looked to be in pretty bad shape, and I have to admit--to my shame--that my heart sank.
And not for him, but for ME!!!
I still had a lot of work to do to finish up for the week.
I knew that I might be asked to forgo everything, and perhaps even spend half the day trying to help this poor soul.
And I had been doing this kind of thing all week, and I was tired.
I was also feeling like sort of a failure in some ways.
It's easy to feel that way when you are in a world where folks compare themselves to others.
Sometimes I wonder if what we are doing is really making a difference.
Anyhow, I opened the door cringing at what I might be asked to do.
The man began telling me his story.
He lives under a bridge here in East Ridge.
He was asking me if we had any work he could do in order to perhaps be able to buy some food.
And I must admit, I tried to take the "easy way out."
I looked in my wallet, knowing that I had a $10.00 bill in there.
I took it out and handed it to him, saying, "This is all the money I have on me; you are welcome to have it."
He was thankful for it, but to my surprise, he said, "I'm wondering if you know where I might be able to get some canned goods?"
I told him that we have a small food pantry and he is welcome to anything we have.
As we were heading to the food pantry I received the biggest compliment that, perhaps, I have ever received in my almost 15 years in the ministry.
The man said, "People tell me that this is a good church. They say that you all do a lot of good--that you help a lot of people out."
I was floored.
Talk about a humbling experience.
Talk about a "God-experience."
Talk about someone "making my day!!!"
Within a one hour period of time, on Thursday morning, 4 people came to this building, as I was trying to finish this sermon that I'd been working on since Monday.
Three came for our meager food pantry which has been used by many, many folks this past week and is nearly empty.
One person was just a kid, really.
A 20 year old who was homeless.
He's fighting with a Meth. Addiction.
His mother sells pills.
His girlfriend is in Valley.
He wants to get his life straight.
He has attempted suicide three times, unsuccessfully.
He believes in God, but he's in a lot of trouble.
He needs a lot of help.
A guy named Warren Bailey died July 14, 2000, at age 88.
He had no family, and he wasn't much of a church-going man.
To the best of anyone's recollection in the town of St. Mary's, Georgia, Mr. Bailey hadn't been to church in the last 20 years.
He did, however, make annual donations of around $100,000 to St. Mary's United Methodist Church--a 350 member congregation.
It probably wasn't a great shock to the members at St. Mary's that the church was remembered in Mr. Bailey's will.
But the amount of money he left was a shock!!!
There was a stunned silence when Rev. Dereck McAleer broke the news to the congregation that the man who owned 49 percent of the area's telephone company had left the church $60 million dollars!!!
"It's all unreal to me," said the pastor.
"This is a number that doesn't have any reality."
Mr. Bailey's will included no instructions as to how the money was to be used, so the church set up an advisory board to decide how to handle its newfound and unexpected wealth.
The biggest fear that the pastor had about this situation was summed up in his lament: "How do we remain a Christian Church with this much wealth?"
There can be no doubt that the Church of Jesus Christ does not always make good decisions as to how to spend money.
Some churches spend huge amounts of money on their buildings.
Others buy digital signs that cost over $100,000.
Some pay their pastors hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Others build gymnasiums for "members only."
And many, many, many give to the poor, support local and worldwide missions.
But it never seems like we are doing enough.
If I had to count the number of times I have to say "No, I'm sorry, we don't have the funds" to someone asking the Church of Jesus Christ to help them pay an electric bill, a rent bill due, food for their children, gas for their car or a place to rest their head for the night...