Who Cares? We Care.
(Luke 5: 12-26)
When I interviewed with the Houston Police Department recruiter back in 1976 one of the questions asked was: Why do you want to be a police officer? I know it sounded corney and appeared to be the stock answer, but I said I wanted to help people. I wanted to make a difference. My theory was that they expected that answer but were looking for the red flag answers like wanting to meet girls, wanting to drive fast, or wanting to carry a badge and gun. Fortunately, I got through the screening and even passed the polygraph. I made it through the academy and successfully completed my probationary period. I was finally on my own and could do it my way. I ran calls for service and trained rookies. My district was divided up into beats and you were responsible for the calls that dropped in your beat. You also responded to other calls in your district if the beat car was already out on a call. While I ran calls, other units sat in the “hole” and only responded when called by the dispatcher. Often their response was slow. You see, the hole was a place you could hideout, stay out of trouble and avoid citizen contact. They would wait when called by the dispatcher, hoping I would take their call, and I would. This was an organization that was supposed to care. But it had too many individuals that didn’t care. They only cared about themselves and their own self-preservation. The department had an unofficial motto: “Nobody ever got run off for doing nothing.”
Sadly, this kind of attitude is emblematic of a larger problem. We’re all familiar with statements such as: I’m just looking out for number one, It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Just putting in my time, then I’m outta here, The ends justify the means, No good deed goes unpunished, It’s not my problem, or It’s not my job.
So, with all the suffering being experienced in the world by others, who cares and, more importantly, who should care? Well, I thought there are a lot of things people don’t care about but, more importantly, just what do I care about? Like many of you, I care about my family, my kids and grandkids. I care about my health and living a longer and healthier life. I care about my retirement and being able to enjoy my golden years. I care about my church, my country, the economy, the environment and the future. Hopefully, the list of things we care about is lengthy.
I then took it a step further and asked myself, what do we as a church care about? The stock, official answer is that we care about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We care about our salvation and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We care about finishing the race and seeing that mansion with many rooms. We care about belonging to a church that means something to us, one where we are surrounded by like-minded people who also care, our church family. If we really care about our relationship with Jesus Christ how are we showing it?
Well, that got me to thinking, what was it that Jesus cared about? With that in mind, I skimmed all four gospels and found numerous instances where he stopped what he was doing to pay attention to someone who desperately needed help. These were the unwanted, the untouchables, the unclean, the helpless and the hopeless. They couldn’t do anything for Jesus but he was their last hope.
In our scripture reading for today, we learn of an instance where a man came along that was suffering from leprosy. The man fell with his face to the ground and begged Jesus, Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Leprosy was a disease that you definitely did not want to catch. Lepers were shunned and if you saw one you turned and went in the opposite direction. It was highly contagious and incurable. Jesus did the unthinkable. He reached out his hand and touched the man. I am willing, he said. Be clean! And immediately the leprosy left the man. We don’t realize how much human contact means to the person who is touched. Can you imagine the impact this had on those who were watching from a safe distance? News of this act of kindness and healing spread like wildfire so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. We then learn of an instance where Jesus was visiting in a home and was teaching a gathering of people who were interested in what he had to say. Some men carrying a paralytic friend on a mat arrived late and couldn’t get in so they went up to the roof and lowered him through the tiles into the middle of crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he healed their friend. He didn’t have them ushered out of the room or tell them to set up an appointment with one of the disciples. He stopped what he was doing and caringly saw to the needs of a suffering human being.
Once, while Jesus was passing by a pool where a great many disabled people laid hoping to be cured by the waters, a man called out to him. He stopped and asked the man if he wanted to get well. When the man said he did, Jesus healed him, no questions asked. He did it just because he cared. He healed a man that was born blind. He said the man was not born blind because of a sin committed by him or his parents. He was just blind, and he healed him, just because he cared. When Jesus was going the home of Jarius whose daughter lay sick and dying, he was passing through a large crowd when he felt someone touch him. He asked who had touched him and a woman who had been ill for 12 years with a bleeding disorder admitted it was her. It was unthinkable to have any contact whatsoever with an unclean woman. In Jesus’s mind, this suffering woman was not to be overlooked. As God’s creation, she deserved attention and respect. Jesus did not judge her or chastise her. He healed her just because he cared. Another time, he met a woman who had been crippled and bent over for 18 years. Out of compassion, because he cared, he said, Woman, you are set free from your infirmity. While eating at the home of a prominent Pharisee, Jesus observed a man suffering dropsy, swollen limbs, and he healed him, because he could and he cared. He even healed a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath because it was the right thing to do. How could healing a person on the Sabbath offend God? As Jesus was passing through Sidon, he was approached by some people who had brought a deaf man who also couldn’t speak to Jesus for healing. I imagine somebody told this man’s friends they needed to go see this Jesus person. He also healed a blind beggar who called out for mercy. Beggars were a common sight in most towns because most occupations of the day required physical labor. Anyone with a crippling disease or disability was at a severe disadvantage and was usually forced to beg, even though God’s laws commanded care for such needy people. Two thousand years later, we still have beggars on street corners begging for mercy just as those encountered by Jesus.
These stories serve as an example to us to be caring and compassionate whenever and wherever we can. We can never be too busy. Jesus didn’t put people off. He saw the need and he acted. People turned to Jesus because they had nobody else to turn to. We are Jesus’ representatives. Do people turn to us for help, for mercy? We need to take our cue from Jesus. He didn’t stop and say, before I heal you, hear these words? He healed them and then may have used the encounter as an object lesson to those who were watching. We like Jesus, are just glad to be in a position to help, no strings attached. Jesus didn’t ask if he’d see them in church on the next Sabbath. We don’t do what we do thinking that, if we help all these people, they’ll come to church on Sunday mornings and our ranks will swell. It’s not about how big our church is at 130 Church Lane, it’s about how big our church is in the community. So, that being said, let me ask you a question. What are we doing as a church to show people out there that we care, that we don’t just get together on Sunday morning to drink coffee and talk about our grandkids?
Our Book of Discipline, paragraph 102, Our Doctrinal Heritage, Mission and Service states, We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing. Joining heart and hand is a call to action, to show that you care by actually doing what you can, when you can. The outreach of the church springs from the working of the spirit. When the Holy Spirit presents us with an opportunity, we need to act because our acts of caring is what leads to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Because who cares? We care.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious, loving and caring God, how grateful we are for the examples of love and compassion shown by your son, Jesus Christ, that serve as a guide to your church as to how we are to be your representatives here on earth, your agents of mercy and hope. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, join our hearts and hands in the work that needs to be done right here in our community and throughout the world to reach those that need so badly to have someone reach out and touch them, to reassure them that they have value and that they too are worthy of your love. Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope. Where there is darkness, only light, and where there’s sadness, ever joy. In the name of your ever-loving son, Jesus Christ, we pray, amen.