I’ve heard it said that as a church if you reach for the ones no one is after God will give you the ones everyone is after. Yet as I consider that statement it begins to play on the part of me I am trying to kill.
I have gotten close enough to Christ to find that the ones no one wants are the ones he is after. Who I should want doesn’t really matter.
Jesus said that he had come for the broken people, hurting people, rejected people, spiritually poor & literally poor people and most of all for lost people. His coming had no ulterior motive he came for the forgotten of society not because it would help Him or return great dividends. Not because it would make him look good to the peace loving humanitarians or because he could have non-profit status he wanted them because he loved them.
We have been guilty of reaching to the less fortunate because it padded our Sunday attendance or it got us on the evening news or because we know God will bless us in some way. We have a lot of motives but many times they are anything but love.
I have met some of the most fascinating, experience rich people on Saturday morning at a breakfast for the less fortunate. I could write a book about Hank the comic genius from West Virginia who plays Hank Williams songs at the courthouse every day. I could tell you about Nina or big Mike and so many others who have touched my heart and changed my life for ever.
Gerard was in his early sixties when I met him for the first time. He had come to breakfast and as I sat talking to him I was taken by his easy conversation and willingness to talk about his past, the war, his family, life on the streets and even addiction.
He was a pure hearted person who had been sidetracked by circumstances and in an attempt to escape the memories he had become chained by addiction. Alcohol had stolen almost everything he had left.
He lived in a tent and spent his days dumpster diving pushing a large grocery cart through the streets laden with plastic bags full of recyclable materials. Stooped and sickly his ruby red face told the story of a life lived for a bottle.
But in the summer of 2006 something wonderful began to happen. As he sat on the 3rd row listening to a sermon on the grace of Calvary tears began to trickle down his puffy cheeks. With his head low he responded to the call of a man named Jesus by walking down to the foot of the cross. When he got there he felt the warm embrace of a savior that had given his life so long ago to secure this moment in history.
Just a few weeks later he was baptized in the wonderful name above every name rejoicing that a life already lived could be reborn. I heard him speak in a language he never learned in school as God filled his life with regenerating power. A homeless man was now the heir of an everlasting kingdom.
It was his custom after every service to come to the alter and find me and tell me how good I had done and to thank me for the precious word. On one of these occasions he came up to me and said “Pastor you did it again.” I said what did I do Gerard? He replied you set a fire under my butt.” I said “ I hope that is a good thing.”
It would be the last time I would ever see him. Later that week he was found alone in a back alley. The coroner said it was a massive stroke or heart attack brought on by a blood clot from a recent fall. Gerard had been complaining about terrible headaches but health care isn’t necessarily the best when you live on the street.
The leaders of our Compassion Ministries and A.C.T.S. programs found out that he was not going to receive a funeral service because his body had been unclaimed by any family. He would be put to rest in a small grave. So we decided to give him a going away party. We blew up a picture that had captured him setting under a Maple tree and we let all his friends on the street know we were going to celebrate the life and death of a good friend. It was my honor to get to eulogize this man I only knew as Gerard. As I shared what little I knew about his life I was overcome with emotion as I realized Gerard wasn’t homeless anymore.
Somewhere In the heavens above, Gerard is walking with Jesus on streets of gold. He is not slumped over, racked by pain, humbled by a hard life and his breath does not smell of alcohol.
He has a new body
He has a new home
He will never feel pain again
He will never be hungry again
He will never be cold again
He will never be alone again
Gerard isn’t homeless anymore.
His tithes wouldn’t buy an extra value meal at the golden arches. He never made a contribution to the building fund. But one thing is for sure his love for Jesus and the church blessed me like few people ever have. I would love to pastor a hundred people like Gerard.
You may never build a congregation of 1000’s you may never be summoned to the oval office to pray for a president, you may never receive any accolades or awards in this life but If your root of true love helps just one Gerard find Christ it is a life worth living.
God said the gospel was a net not a fishing lure. He did not want us predetermining for any reason who should be afforded the hope of “good news.”
This sums up our ministry quest at Chapel North. Proclaiming salvation for anyone, even nobodies.