Hopeless and Helpless

Good morning. It is Sunday, April 12, 2015.

Today’s Word of the Day is lotusland. This is “a place inducing contentment especially through offering an idyllic living situation,” or, “a state or an ideal marked by contentment often achieved through self-indulgence.”

Today is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. That sounds especially yummy, for some reason.

We had a nice visit at the hospital last night. We went straight there after our worship gathering. Well, not exactly straight, as we stopped by a store to get my mother some magazines and snacks. The fever (I can’t remember . . . did I write about the fever? Yes, I did) was significantly down, and he seemed a bit more aware. He was pretty much awake the whole time we were there. We watched a few innings of the Rangers game with them. He did struggle a little with time lines, when the nurse came in with some meds. But overall, I think it was a positive, encouraging visit. They had confirmed a UTI (urinary tract infection), which could definitely explain the earlier confusion. We’ll be going back up there sometime today.

Rachel and Justin are supposed to be coming down for lunch today, and we need to get groceries before they get here. Plus I need to put go juice in my car.

We continue to feel the love and support from the Body of Christ through all of this. The prayers and encouragement that we have felt from people is nothing short of amazing. We are so very grateful.

The Rangers and Red Sox both won their games yesterday. This put the Rangers back at .500 and tied for first place with Oakland (the Rangers have won every other game, so far). The Red Sox are currently along atop the AL East, with a 4-1 record. Their next game is in NY tonight, at 7:05 CT. I’m guessing it must be tonight’s ESPN game. I wonder how many times I will hear the word “Jeter?”

On this date in 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded their smash hit, “Rock Around the Clock.” It was originally a “B” side for “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town),” but became a bigger hit after being the first rock & roll song to be included in a movie soundtrack. The movie was 1955’s Blackboard Jungle, starring a very young Sydney Poitier.

Nine years earlier, to the day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died while in office.

Today’s birthdays include Beverly Cleary (author), Tiny Tim (musician, sort of), Herbie Hancock (musician), John Kay (Steppenwolf), Ed O’Neill (actor), David Letterman (talk show), Tom Clancy (author), David Cassidy (singer, The Partridge Family), Pat Travers (musician), Andy Garcia (actor), Vince Gill (musician), Shannen Doherty (actress), Nicholas Brendon (actor, Xander on Buffy), Jennifer Morrison (actress), and Claire Danes (actress).

John Kay is a singer/guitar player that is one of the founding members of the rock group Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf was one of my favorite rock bands when I was growing up. With songs like “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Born To Be Wild,” they still get a moderate amount of airplay on classic rock stations today. John was born on this date in 1944, and turns 71 today. Here is a video of my father’s favorite song of theirs, “Snowblind Friend.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Psalm 31:1-5

“Whoever relies not on the providence of God, so as to commit his life to its faithful guardianship, has not yet learned aright what it is to live.” (John Calvin, in Heart Aflame)

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Romans 8:11

(From Knowing Jesus)

Today’s reading is “Jesus, Hope for the Hopeless.” The scripture references are Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 4:18-19; 8:43-48; and John 5:1-15.

“Hopeless, helpless people of all stripes populate the earth’s landscapes, though they may fall out of sight behind the gleaming skyscrapers of our metropolises or disappear in the teeming villages of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

Do we get too used to the stories, to the point that we simply carry on with our lives, “blissfully absorbed in our interests, jobs, families, investments, homes, careers, vacations, and health clubs?” How do we respond to panhandlers on our occasional trips to the inner cities? What about when they knock on the doors of our churches? Yet, we seem to be inundated with “multitudes of welfare services and Christian missions” (which is not a bad thing, mind you).

When Jesus walked the earth, the circumstances were much the same. No one cared about the “hopeless outcasts, lepers, cripples, widows,” and especially those who were typecast as “sinners.” Jesus was probably comfortable, growing up as the “son” of an artisan, but had to have noticed the hopeless, helpless people around him.

At the beginning of his ministry years, he announced “that he was God’s fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy to bring Good News to the poor and the prisoners.” Those hopeless and helpless people thronged to wherever he was, to hear him preach, and maybe get a chance to simply touch the hem of his garment. “They hung on his words and his touch because he offered them hope and a chance to join God’s new kingdom and be liberated from sin and oppression.”

It is worthy to notice that one thing Jesus did NOT do was to attack the causes of their conditions! He never said, “Well, you wouldn’t be blind if you hadn’t sinned so much!” Or, “You wouldn’t be poor if you had managed your money better.” He did not say, “Let’s see if you are trying to help yourself before I help you.” He simply told them that they would find relief, rest, and salvation in him. “He offered people a distinctive yoke, not another yoke of oppression but the yoke of freedom in a faith relationship with him.” Jesus was able to “replace their despair with hope.”

It is also worthy of noticing that he was not afraid to touch those whom most people considered untouchable. He touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable. “If we are to walk the Jesus way, we must find ways to give the helpless both material and spiritual aid, comfort, and hope.” And we must do this without judging people, which we are so terribly good at doing. Judging, that is. I distinctly remember a time when I was a music minister, many years ago. Some of the men were discussing helping a family with a Thanksgiving meal. During the discussion, one of them said, and I speak truthfully, I am not making this up, “We need to make sure that they are trying to get a job and help themselves before we give them something.” Okay . . . I don’t remember his exact words, but that was the gist of it. I was so disappointed and horrified that a man who claimed to be following Christ would say such a thing. But that is how we are raised in this culture, isn’t it?

Jesus repeatedly turned his world upside-down with his actions and teachings. I don’t have much doubt that, if he had waited until today to come the first time, he would be treated much the same, if not worse.

We, as his followers, “must become generous in our giving and get used to taking risks in relationships with the hopeless. . . . Being Jesus to the helpless and hopeless will be costly in terms of pride, money, and energy, but it is the example he set for us.”

Father, as we walk in our world, living our lives, keep our eyes open, that we might notice those who are hopeless and helpless. We may find them anywhere, including our places of work. May we not be so absorbed in our own lives, trials, and pleasures that we do not notice those for whom we are to be salt and light. Help us to walk more like Jesus in our world. Help us to bring the Kingdom to the people around us.

I pray for this day. I continue to pray for healing and recovery for my father and strength for my mother. I pray that there might be more contact from their church family at home. I thank you for the people who have given of themselves to help them so much in the past, and who are offering help, going forward. Your people are truly a blessing to us, Father! Keep us safe as we do what needs to be done today, and give us some rest for the week ahead.

Your grace is sufficient.

We cannot afford to not notice the helpless around us. It is part of our mission as Christians to be Jesus to the people we encounter. We must look up and notice.

Grace and peace, friends.

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