Bishop Carol Gallagher’s Sermon on Third Mark of Mission
To Respond to Human Need by Loving Service
Our response to God’s love and forgiveness in our lives is simply to turn and share God’s love with others. The compassion that Jesus places in our hearts urges us to care for the people in our lives. For many of us this is easier said than done and we don’t know exactly what we can do. So I will share two stories from my own life that might help us all to consider how we can live in to this call for loving service.
Some years ago I was attending a meeting at my seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My oldest daughter Emily had attended college in Boston and lived and worked in Cambridge while she was in college, so she tagged along with me. She visited friends while I was in my meeting. One evening we were returning to the room after dinner when a homeless man came up and asked for money. He recognized Emily and they chatted and caught up for a few minutes. At the end of their catching up he asked about money again. She turned out her pockets and showed him that she had nothing right then. He reached in his cup and gave her a quarter. As we walked away I remarked that she was the only person I knew who could get money off a homeless person. I asked her how she knew the man and she explained.
When Emily lived in Cambridge, she talked to the homeless folks, treating them like she would want to be treated. If she had an extra sandwich or an extra dollar she would share it with the guys on the street. She looked them in the eye and called them by name. She didn’t rush past and ignore them but instead greeted each with the dignity they deserved as a child of the Creator. They knew she wasn’t being a do-gooder but rather was a fellow human being who cared for them. She didn’t have much extra as a college student, but she had plenty of love and concern and made them feel like friends, and like they counted for something. God invites us, as individuals, right where we are, to serve others by treating them as we would treated, by respecting everyone we encounter in our day. Each of us can do that. We can serve the Creator by serving others.
When serving in a parish years ago, I was talking with the children during Advent in a family service. We were talking about getting ready for Christmas and I asked them how their families prepared for a new baby. They made all sorts of suggestions. One little girl shouted out that every baby should have a baby shower. She said that was really important. She repeated herself several times to make sure everyone had heard her. Some of the adults were struck by what she said.
Afterwards a group of folks decided that we should have a baby shower – a baby shower for baby Jesus. We had a women’s shelter that took care of new mothers and they were in great need. The shelter sent us lists of items they needs. The children took the lists and handed them out to everyone who came to church. No one was allowed to walk out of church without something to bring for the shower.
At the end of the Christmas pageant that year, as a Christmas carol was being played, the children, still in costume, went to the back of the church. Little one carried diapers and bottles. The older ones pushed strollers and carried car seats. All sorts of baby necessities were laid at the foot of the crèche. Baby Jesus had a great shower that year.
One little voice can spark a whole movement, a whole ministry. One little insistent voice can be the nudging of the Holy Spirit. We can often disregard the small voices, but God doesn’t miss the need around us. As a whole community we can come together and take on the care of those around us. Each group and people is called to a different kind of service according to the needs around us. But God will find one small voice that can change the whole world, one insistent child or adult who can see the need and point us all in the right direction.
Ending with this song –
A Mother’s Lullaby
How could anyone ever tell you that you’re anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you that you’re less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle?
How deeply you’re connected to my soul?
Wintertalk 2013 Keynote address for Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 in Wewoka, OK