Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hurricane Relief - September 10, 2005

St. John’s, Burt ~ Our Savior, Swea City

You know, I’ve been paying close attention to all the mess down south. Maybe you too have been glued to the TV pictures, and 24 hour CNN coverage. My heart goes out to the thousands of suffering people. In a way it reminds me so much of those old UNICEF commercials, that have the starving child, with flies buzzing around their heads. We don’t like this view of our country, after all this is the United States of America; we are unique in time, blessed by God to be a blessing to the whole world. This just makes us look bad, like the third world, unable to care for ourselves. You might have even said to yourself, “This isn’t my country.”

And another thing I’ve been thinking, I can’t help, I don’t want to think it, but it keeps rolling around in my brain. Why didn’t those people just listen to the government and get out of there when they had the chance? What kind of a person breaks the window of a mom a pop store to carry off a big flat screen TV, when they don’t have a dry bed to sleep in? Don’t those people understand that shooting at rescue workers is only making matters worse? In other words, “How foolish can you be? What kind of fools are living down there in all that water?

I know, well at least I’ve been told, that they really aren’t to blame with the storm and all. There were lots of breakdowns in planning, there should have been more done on all levels of government. Certainly it’s hard to blame someone who has never had the means to get the good stuff in life from taking the one-in-life-time opportunity to have it. But, you’ve really got to wonder what those people are thinking. You saw the pictures just as I did: people wading through filthy waist high water floating tiny barges of potato chips and coke, and TVs. I just wanted to scream at them, “Wake up! You’ve got to get out! Forget that stuff, you need fresh water and real food, you need clean clothes and a warm dry place to sleep.” But there they were, grinning at me from their muddy water walkway. It was almost as if they were saying to me, drop me some MRE’s so I can steal another computer. Well, it’s just isn’t very Christian of me is it… but it’s the way I felt. The world is full of foolish people. If they want to shoot at the rescue workers the world is better off with out them. These aren’t the heroes of the Trade Center are they? They aren’t easy to love. Who would want to give anything to “fools” like these? Who would want to help people who don’t seem to understand a basic American idea like a hard day’s work for a fair day’s wage? Who wants to waste their hard earned money on foolish people?

It kind of takes all the compassion out of it, doesn’t it. After all, why would we want to be seen taking care of those people, why would we want to be seen in the company of “Tax collectors and sinners?”

Oops! What did you say? “Tax collectors and sinners?” How did you get there? Well, that’s the people that Jesus was caught hanging out with and helping. That’s the people the weren’t liked, that’s the people that were seen as foolish in those days. They foolishly ignored the social rules of the day. They foolishly cooperated with the Roman government to bilk money out of their countrymen. The crippled and the sick were foolish enough to sin in a way that drew God’s attention, how else do you explain their disease? So when the Pharisees asked Jesus disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matt 9:11) They were really asking, “why does he spend his time on foolish people? Why does he hang out with people who aren’t worth the trouble? Why does he speak to them and care for them? They cause their own troubles, let them live in them. They are just foolish people who don’t know what’s going on.

And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13, ESV)
Think about the faces of the “foolish” people you’ve seen on TV. Think about their greed and selfishness, think about their blindness to the reality of the danger, think about their wonton destruction of property, and whatever else you saw that you hated about them. Then think about Jesus hanging on the cross. He shed his blood for them, in their need. He suffered the nails through his hands and feet and the thorns on his head because of their sin. He had the ones who shot at rescue workers in his eyes as he closed them in death. These foolish people are the very people Christ shed His blood to save. And now look in your heart and see the sin of self-superiority. See the blackness of racism. See your the unhealthy attitudes toward the poor. Jesus says, if you call your brother “You fool!” you will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matt 5:22) You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve let our compassion bleed away into contempt. When Jesus wants us to show mercy, we give a sluggish response. It seems that we too are in need of a Savior. It seems that you and I are foolish in our own way. But the Good News it that we are not left out. His blood was shed for you. His blood was shed for me. We need the Physician because we are sin sick. And Jesus is ours.
What a wonderful thing it is to say to our God, “Have mercy!” and know that our sins are forgiven, even our foolish thoughts and lack of action. What a wonderful thing it is to confess our sins to each other by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault… and hear the forgiveness of Christ spoken right to us. What a wonderful thing it is to receive the forgiveness we need through the very body and blood of Christ that hung on the cross for foolish people everywhere. That’s me, I need the blood of Jesus very much. That’s you, you need the blood of Jesus very much. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to share the Good News of Jesus with those who really need it. That’s the foolish people you’ve seen and heard about in the hurricane ravaged south. They need the blood of Jesus, very much. They need Good News about a Savior, and now, they have other needs, too. St. James said it like this,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18, ESV)

They need food and water and dry places to sleep and live. In the end they’ll need jobs and permanent housing. We are always in danger of being Lazy Lutherans. We are saved by faith alone without works. And that’s very true. But as James clearly tells us where there is faith there is also works. They go hand-in-hand. It’s a useless corn stalk that never grows an ear, useless beans never flower and put on pods. The opportunity for us is to live out our faith and live it out right now. There are many ways to help. Right now the most urgent need is cash. You can serve by giving money to organization that will bring them much needed supplies…

LCMS World Relief Video

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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