Sermon: Do The Right Thing… Not Always So Easy, Is It?

Let us pray: Creator and maker of all bless the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts; grow in us and show us your ways and inspire us to live by your truths.Amen

Fr. Manny Borg invites the children of St Nicholas to come forward for the sermon.

It was Children's Liturgy and Celebration Sunday...

My Dad used to get up each week day morning at 3am and head off to work. On his way out, he’d stop by my room and always, like clockwork, kiss me on the forehead. I was always a pretty restless sleeper as I really never mastered the art of a good, night’s sleep. I’d say goodbye to him and watch as he quietly and carefully made his way to the front door without having to turn on any lights, guided only by the front porch light that shone through the window of the front door. Once the door was shut, the effort to get to sleep began again. My Dad was a butcher at Henry Ford Hospital. Now, I know what you’re thinking; “right, a butcher at a hospital.” Well, the truth is, he was. In those days, many hospitals that were as large and busy as Henry Ford Hospital was and still is, often had a fully functioning butcher shop to take care of the large sides of beef and pork that would come in. Granted, the patients didn’t see much of this good meat, but rather, the staff, in particular, the doctors were to receive the choice cuts of meat for their lunches and dinners. I’d get home from school around 4pm and he would be there, often times in the kitchen with my Mom, helping her prepare dinner. And just like my Mom, he liked to cook; something I undoubtedly inherited from both my parents, though my cooking skills pale in comparison to them. I’d sit at the enamel-topped kitchenette table and ask him if anything happened that day. Occasionally, he would have an interesting story to tell me, but most days, it was work, work and more work. One day, he shared with me this particular event.
One particular day, a very cold and snowy day, my Dad was driving on Interstate-10, the Lodge Freeway by name and he happened to see a car off the road, on the shoulder. The driver was outside the car, waving for help. Remember, it was cold, snowy and of course, being 3am, still quite dark. My Dad, a most trusting soul, pulled over and provided assistance to the stranded driver. He helped him get his car up and running and then, followed him to his home, just to make sure he got there, safe and sound. The other driver offered to pay my Dad for his services. But, my Dad, knowing full well how hard people worked for their pay, did not accept the offer, thanked the gentlemen and drove to the hospital to begin his work for the day. He told me this story, and I was all ears. The whole time my Dad was telling me this story, my head sat in my wide open hands as my elbows rested on the table. I was sitting up on the chair; with my legs tucked underneath me…he had captured my attention. Easily amused and entertained…definitely so, but any story that my Dad or Mom would tell was good enough for me.
Admittedly, this is not the most earth shattering of stories, now is it? I suspect this sort of thing happens every day in every city, in every country. Of course today, picking up a stranger on a freeway could be a journey into danger. Precautions are taken and prudence should be exercised. This story I shared with you happened in January, 1968…my Dad was white and this other driver was black. Now, the riots of the summer and autumn of 1967 were still very fresh in our minds. So many people fought, people took sides and there was so much violence across the country. But for my Dad, well, he did what he believed was the right thing to do, regardless of the color of the other person’s skin. That didn’t matter to him, because coming to the aid of a fellow human being came natural to my Dad. The same truth should hold for all of us, if we truly ally ourselves to Christ Jesus our Lord. We cannot do everything for everyone, but certainly, we can all do something for someone, some times. Right?

From around the world, from every corner of this earth, we hear the cry, Help Me, Help Me, Please, and even more, Someone, Help Me. Humankind is in need and humankind is in trouble.

Jesus did what came natural to him, too. Jesus’ desire was to aid and assist those in need. Such acts as these brought Jesus such happiness and peace. He saw the happiness and relief on the faces of those He touched, those He cured, and those who He gave aid.
Today’s Gospel has Jesus curing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of her ailment. Jesus didn’t stop and think, “What should I do? Should I wait until later or should I just go about my business here in town?” No. Jesus did what was right. Jesus cured her, made her well. Jesus did what came natural to Him. And Simon-Peter’s mother-in-law, well, she did what came natural to her; she got up off of her sickbed and began to take care of them, feeding them and caring to their needs.
We are all called to do what should come natural to us…that is, as Christians, we are called to serve our sisters and brothers, to provide aid and assistance when we can, how we can and perhaps, as often as we can. I know, this is pretty demanding stuff. But, while it is demanding, it is important for us to remember that this is what Jesus is asking of us. If we are to be true disciples and followers of Christ, well then, it requires of us some sacrifices and allowing ourselves to willingly give of ourselves in order for others to have more happy and healthy lives. And, this is perhaps the toughest thing; we are to give freely of ourselves for no other reason than because it is what Jesus would expect and want of us. We are not to expect anything in return for the work we do. Jesus didn’t wait around for Simon Peter’s mother-in-law to repay him for His service to her, though she did get up and fed them. My Dad didn’t expect nor accept the kind offer he was given by the man he helped on that cold, snowy January morning in 1968. My Dad simply did what was expected of him…as a fellow human being and as a Christian. He did what came natural to him.
“From around the world, from every corner of this earth, we hear the cry, Help Me, Help Me, Please, and even more, Someone, Help Me. Humankind is in need and humankind is in trouble. We are hurting and we have needs. If we, as individuals and as a collective body are able to help relieve a need, to ease the suffering and pain of another human being, we are always going to be in demand. People of faith, consequently, are always going to be looked upon to take care of those who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of themselves. The door of the helpful rests at the end of a very beat path. Nature expects us to respond to those in need. We are fully human and part of our humanity is that we respond, naturally, to those in need. We are to extend kindness for much the same reason a flower blooms…we are both made for that purpose!”
Oh yes, a sidebar to the story I shared earlier…later that same year, 1968, in a wild victory celebration downtown, thousands of people cheered and roared as the local home team won baseball’s World Series. My best friend’s Dad took us downtown to be part of the festivities. I was hanging out of one of the backseat windows, waiving my souvenir pennant when a large man, wearing an oversize baseball cap that had tiger ears and a tail, pulled me out of the car and lifted me on his shoulders. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t concerned…I was taking in the moment of sheer delight and excitement. That large man was black…and I was youthful, 10 year old white boy…we were both doing what came natural to us…we were celebrating life and rejoicing! I’d like to think that is exactly what Jesus would have wanted of us, to celebrate and rejoice, together, as a universal family, sharing our joy with one another…and who was I to disappoint our Savior?

Credits:
Today Is Mine (Devotions for Today),” Leroy Brownlow. Brownlow Printing Co. 1972

Citations:
5th Sunday after the Epiphany Feb. 5, 2012. Celebration/Children’s Sunday St. Nicholas.
Isaiah 40: 21-31; Psalm 147: 1-12, 21c; 1 Cor. 9: 16-23; Mark 1: 29-39

manny@stnicholasepiscopal.org

Manny


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