We went to Chicago last weekend and while we walked by a number of people who were begging for money on the streets, one man in particular stood right in the middle of our path and directly asked us for money. “No, I’m sorry.” I muttered. I actually didn’t have any cash on me at the time and we walked on. My daughter
started asking questions. “Who was that dad? Who was that man? Does he have a home?” Jeff and I answered honestly. But the situation wasn’t done. When we had returned home she brought it up again. “Mom, who was that man? Why didn’t we help him?” I explained, well I didn’t have any cash at thetime. “Wellwhydidn’twetalktohim?”Thisquestionstoppedme.This is a child who knows what Jesus has asked us to do and what I did in that moment was not what Jesus wants of me. Okay we didn’t give him money, but why didn’t we talk to him?
What do we do at church? We figure out in our complex crazy world how to follow Jesus. Jesus who leads us into places that are uncomfortable and into situations that stretch us all in an effort to connect us with other people. We teach and learn together over and over again how difficult it is to follow God’s instructions for our lives: “that we should love God with all of our heart, our soul and all our might and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” This neighbor that we are talking about is the neighbor who not only lives next door to us and around the corner, but the neighbor who stands on the corner street in Chicago and says “can you spare some change?”
In living this faith, we recognize daily how horribly we fail and will fail at followingJesusandalsohowmanymorechanceswearegiven. The conversation with my daughter wasn’t over. After I confessed that we should have stopped and at least talked to him, she said: “well let’s figure out how to go out and help other people like him. Let’s do something now and find other people to give money and supplies to because this is who we are!” People of Shepherd of the Hills this is who we are! We are people who at times walk by those in need for many good reasons, but every single day are given another chance by our loving God who calls us, enlightens us and gathers us together as a community of faith to love and serve our neighbor.
Often times our kids are less jaded then the rest of us. My daughter will learn over time that there are people asking for money on most streets in Chicago and while it’s a great idea to talk to them, it is often impossible. But in the mean-time I am inspired by her conviction. I am inspired by her faith. And I am thankful that she knows that the right thing to do is to help someone who is asking for help and if we can’t help him, at least get to know him.
My children are asking difficult questions to me about who I am ignoring because they have been taught that we aren’t supposed to ignore people.
And while I’d like to take the credit for their great compassion the truth is they learned this at Shepherd of the Hills, not just by me but by you. This is significant. I think this is the most important work we could be doing together is teaching each other how to love more deeply, how to give more generously and when we can’t give financially, to give of our time. “Why didn’t we stop and speak with him, mom?” My daughter knows this is what Jesus does. Jesus stops and speaks with people. Sometimes Jesus heals them. Sometimes Jesus eats with them. But every time Jesus sees them.
Reading through Luke this Spring has reminded me of all the people I want to overlook and Jesus invites us to see. Jesus sees the blind man by the road. Jesus sees Zaccheaus up in the tree. Jesus sees the rich and the poor. Jesus sees you and me wherever we are and loves us. Jesus invites us to see all people, especially the people we want to overlook.
When I think about what I want for our world it is this: people who really see and love like Jesus. Daily I need to be reminded to do this and as a community of faith I think this is exactly what we have committed to do for one another: to help each other to see.
It is my prayer for all of us this Easter Season for our eyes to be opened so that we might not only see but love people in Jesus’ name.
Pastor Joanna Mitchell