Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. -Romans 12:13 (NRSV)
Paul's epistle to the people of the church at Rome concludes with an appeal to the readers to work out their Christian faith in practical ways, both in the church and in the world. In the passage above, Paul clearly defines that Christians have social responsibility not only to believers, but to all people - even strangers.
Neal delivered a wonderful homily during our Ash Wednesday service several years ago, encouraging us to rethink "giving up" something for Lent, but instead to "give of ourselves" to make a difference in the lives of others. That message struck a resounding chord with me, and the focus of my Lenten journey since that time has been to give of myself, hopefully making a difference in the life of even one person.
The great irony over the years has been that the person whose life was most changed by my acts of service was my own, and the rewards tremendous. With every encounter, a newfound friend; for every hour spent volunteering, my spirits increasingly lifted. Who was reaching whom?
Last Friday, a group from our church served a meal to the homeless men who gathered at the Central Night Shelter.
I was blessed to be counted among the volunteers that evening. As we were serving dessert, an elderly man approached me and asked if he could have just a small amount of milk on his pound cake.
Ever the rule follower, I knew that the milk in the back of the refrigerator was intended for breakfast the next morning. But without asking (I would beg forgiveness later), I opened one of the gallons and poured about a quarter cup of milk into the bowl, taking care to distribute the small amount evenly over the top of his cake. As I handed the bowl back to the gentleman, he thanked me profusely, adding that it would now taste "just like momma always made it."
Gray preached in a recent sermon that at the end of our lives, when all is said and done, most of us hope only that our time here on earth somehow made a difference, that our lives mattered. I will likely not ever be that person who develops a cure for millions, but I thank God for that brief moment in time when a smattering of milk afforded warm memories to one of God's children.
Prayer for Today
Lord, show us how to meet the needs of those around us in a loving and useful way. Amen.