Who Matters to God?
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
July 2, 2017
Scriptures: Matthew 10:40-42 and Matthew 18:1-7, 10-14
Many of us grew up hearing that “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” I my case it was meant as a motivation to get off my duff and work hard, living up to my potential, etc. As I look back through my lifetime I can see the benefit of efforts made, but I also see the numerous times when trying to help myself just wasn’t going to be enough. I needed the help of others. No matter how hard I tried; no matter how hard I worked, things were not going to work out purely by my own efforts.
That Protestant work ethic mentality was still there, but in some ways, it was harmful. It gave the sense that if you work hard enough things will always work out. That’s not always true.
There are times in life when we need that cup of cold water because we are parched. Our spirits are low because we just can’t seem to cut a break. We feel like God has left the building and the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It gets tempting to think why not just quit trying so hard? Why not break a few rules and kick back? Why not give up trying all together when it seems that God doesn’t really care, because if God did things would never have gotten so bad? What do you do if it feels like you must not matter to God?
Indeed. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do that will change your own situation, but there are others who can help.
First, we remember Jesus’ words and the words of scripture that remind us of how we are to live. We remember Jesus’ story about the lost sheep. Every single person matters to God, because God created us all. Yes, we are all different, with differing gifts and abilities. God supplied those so that when we work together, there will be enough; enough knowledge, enough muscle, enough courage, enough heart.
It’s when we try to fly solo that we most often find ourselves lacking. When we work together, we cover the gaps and give one another encouragement in the tough times. To be a “rugged individualist” might be great when things are going smoothly, but when one of life’s storms knocks you down you may just need a hand to help you get back on your feet.
The first hand we need is God’s, and more often than not that hand is attached to a human arm. God has directed us and modeled for us in Jesus Christ what it looks like to offer grace and mercy, a cup of cold water to the stranger and clothing for those in need.
The biggest problem with the work ethic and “God helps those who help themselves” has been that it can cause us to make some assumptions about poor people. If they are poor, it must be because they have failed to work hard. If they are struggling, then they must somehow be responsible for bringing it upon themselves. Having lived long enough, and having had the rug pulled out from under me a few times, I’ve come to see the error in that line of thinking. There are systemic issues at play. There are learned behaviors and mindsets that work against people. There are consequences of other people’s decisions that affect those around them. There is systemic injustice and distrust that keeps going, generation to generation.
So where is God in the midst of all that? Jesus is there, sending hope to the hopeless, and courage to keep going despite the odds. He also sends the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire us to go where we are needed, to give all that we have, whether that’s material things like clothing, bedding, furniture and food, or to give of our time and energy to help by building homes, cooking for the hungry, being a good listener to one who has been knocked down by life, offering advice and connections when we are asked. Hopefully, we remember to pray, too.
God is relentlessly searching for the lost sheep, and sends us out in search and rescue parties. God is relentlessly sending grace and light into our lives, bringing the lost parts of our selves forward for healing and redemption; erasing our old assumptions and replacing them with grace.
Who matters to God? You do, and so does the guy with the cardboard sign on the street corner, the burger flipper, the homeless person, the hungry child, the addict, the cheating spouse, the run-away teen who’s been sold into sex trafficking, the bullied pre-teen, the pastor starting a new appointment, the frustrated mom, the lonely elderly person, the exhausted storm recovery team member, those of different religions, nationalities and race.
Everyone matters to God, whether we feel comfortable around them or not. They are a beloved child of God. All persons are of sacred worth. Woe to the one who harms and demeans. Woe to the one who puts a stumbling block in their way because of how God has made them – of any color, size, gender, sexuality, mental or physical capability. Woe to the one who abuses or enslaves. Woe to the ones who fail to stand up for the disadvantaged and marginalized. Woe to the one who says, “it’s not my problem.”
We cannot fix everything, but we can fix something. We can use our minds and our muscles to shine the light of Christ into someone’s life this week. We can welcome the stranger, welcome the righteous, and be welcomed ourselves. What has God been nudging you towards?
Our youth group and their supporters are going to Detroit next week to do whatever needs doing; not because they are being paid, but because they seek to serve Jesus. May we all serve Jesus this week, offering whatever we have to bring God’s love into focus. Amen.