These are my sermon notes from the 8 AM service:
Matthew 25 - Episcopal Relief and Development's mandate.
What can we learn from this final parable of Jesus? The sheep have a job to do…
(1) Witnessed on a New York City street: A homeless man is sitting on the curb near St. Bart’s Church. He has set his hat out in front of him. A shabbily dressed homeless woman dragging a cart filled with garbage bags walks by. She pauses in front of the man. Deciding that he was worse off than she was, she takes out of her worn, ripped coat pocket two crumpled dollar bills and places them in his hat. It is a random act of charity that goes almost unnoticed by the world, a snapshot of compassion that both inspires the spirit and breaks the heart. That was reported in The New York Times, December 29, 2003.
The homeless woman in front of St. Bart’s manages to see beyond her own hardships to embrace Christ’s compassion in the homeless man she meets on the street…she saw a fellow human being…she saw Christ… Sometimes we don’t see Christ…
(2) In July 1995, the city of Chicago was wrapped in a deadly heat wave. For days the mercury hung in the three-digit-zone, the heat index reaching 120 degrees. During the heat wave, more than 700 Chicagoans died. Emergency teams reported finding inadequate or nonexistent ventilation in the residences of the dead, many had cardiac or pulmonary weaknesses. What major media accounts failed to report was another deadly killer: the absence of community. The majority of people who died in the heat wave died alone. They had no one checking in on their attic apartments or their windowless lives. No family, friend or neighbor showed up to discover the severity of his or her plight. Sixty-eight of these individuals died so anonymously that Cook County officials buried them in a mass grave.
The absence of community does not require a heat wave or cold spell, much less hundreds of deaths, to make its presence known. It surrounds us daily — in our neighborhoods, our work lives and the anguish of our own souls. We may not always be aware of this void. But the scarcity of a deep sense of community can wreak havoc below the surface of our outwardly busy lives, just as it occasionally makes the ultimate claim on an elderly individual living alone. [Adapted from "Breathing together" by Peter W. Marty, The Christian Century, August 23, 2005.]
Without community, we lose our connections, we fail to notice the needs of others, we can’t see Christ…
(3) Talia Leman, an eighth grader in Iowa who loves soccer and swimming, and whose favorite subject is science. When Talia was 10 years old, she saw television clips of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and decided to help. She galvanized other kids and started a movement to trick-or-treat at Halloween for coins for hurricane victims. The movement caught the public imagination, Talia made it on the “Today” show, and the campaign raised more than $10 million.
With that success behind her, Talia, now 13 years old, organized a program called RandomKid. At randomkid.org, young people can link up with others to participate in various philanthropic ventures. On the Web site, Talia has organized a campaign to build a school in rural Cambodia, backed by children in 48 states and 19 countries. [NY Times, Nov. 16, 2008]
Jesus calls us to the work of living community — community that is centered in the holiness of God that dwells within every man, woman and child. A community that sees Christ in all the members of the human family and responds to their needs. [Connections]