SUNDAY SERMON: Helping in a dangerous world

Rev. Stephen Baldwin 

NT: Luke 6.37-38

How can I help people in need in a dangerous world?

Last week after church, a man came into the back of the sanctuary asking for help at the end of the worship service. We were all a little unsure what to do because of the way it happened. Since I know this particular man quite well, I went back and was able to talk with him about what he needed. 

But that’s just one small example of something that is happening on a larger scale than we are used to in a small town. We are seeing more and more needs. Blessing boxes are emptied as quickly as they are filled. People without transportation are walking up and down Ronceverte hill, which is a dangerous thing to do without a path. The food pantry is in need of diapers, formula, and baby food. And they are feeding more people than they have for years.

While we all know that God calls us to care for our neighbors, do you sometimes wonder how to do that in today’s dangerous world? 

In decades past, we may have opened our cars to people hitching a ride, but today we are understandably afraid to. We knew the people who needed a ride before because they were our neighbors or we knew their family, but we don’t often know the people asking for help now. So without that context or relationship, we aren’t sure what to do. 

The man who came inside last week can be a very nice man…but he also has a substance use problem, in addition to a criminal record, and he can be very cruel if you catch him at the wrong time. 

This month, I am preaching on Frequently Asked Questions. And today’s question, as you might have guessed by now, is, “How can I help people in need in a dangerous world?” 

Jesus provides us dozens of examples. Not to mention the law and the prophets. All of them teach us that caring for others is a cornerstone of what it means to be a Christian. We look out for each other’s needs as a matter of faith. 

It’s one of the things I love about the church. It’s one of the things I love about you. You’re always looking out for each other. Volunteering and making plans to help others in the community. Caring is a way of life for you. And you also know things aren’t always what they seem. Your kindness can be taken advantage of.

The question is: How can you help people in need in a dangerous world? Today’s scripture answers that with two words–sincerely and safely. 

Verse 37 says sincerely. When someone has a need, do not judge. Do not condemn. Share what you have. And when you do these things, you will receive them back. You will not be judged. You will not be condemned. Your needs will be met. Sincerity. 

Verse 38 adds safely. The specific metaphor is fascinating. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” 

This metaphor was taken from the marketplaces of the day, where people would buy rice or grain, for example. A seller would take a measure of grain, shake it down so there are no air pockets, press it down so you get the full amount, and give it to you in exchange for payment for a full measure. 

It’s about making sure both parties in a transaction are protected. No one is taking advantage of another. Safety. 

And isn’t that what is often missing today? We are afraid we will be taken advantage of . People in need are afraid they will be taken advantage of. So it’s important to provide help in ways where both parties can be protected. 

We are seeing more and more needs in our community each day. Yall work to meet needs sincerely and safely all the time. I know about some of the profound, long-term ways in which you are helping your neighbors in need each and every week, and it is enormously generous of you. For those who might be looking for ways to help, there are many. 

Mark has started a wonderful ministry right here at the church to help meet the needs of the hungry, our free community meals. More and more, those meals are being attended by people who need the food. 

There are also blessing boxes on both sides of us which provide direct assistance, one at the Baptist church and one at the Methodist church. Just drop by and add a few items every now and then. 

We are going to restart our mission project of providing specific items to the food pantry every quarter they can’t get elsewhere. We did this for years with fresh produce, toiletries, and baked goods, and we will do it again to give everyone a chance to help meet rising needs locally. 

Our neighbor in the old hospital, Amy Hubbard, is working her heart out to start a homeless shelter in town. The library serves as a clearinghouse for all kinds of services and needs and could always use help. Recovery groups like Al-Anon and AA and NA exist here in town to help people recover from substance use and need support. Communities in Schools needs mentors to help kids in bad home situations. 

There are so many meaningful ways to help. No one can or should do it all; we all must do our part as the body of Christ working together. 

Mr. Rogers, the children’s TV show host and Presbyterian minister, used to say, “Look for the helpers.” Whenever there is a need in your community or in your world, look for the helpers. There are always people who come in to help no matter the situation. And the helpers provide hope, he said. Their efforts give us hope that things are going to be OK. 

It can feel overwhelming at times, with more needs than we are used to seeing. By the grace of God, there are a myriad of ways to sincerely and safely help people in need. Find what feels sincere in your heart. Work with others to do it safely. Be a helper. Not only will you be meeting a need in the community, you will meet your own need to serve God by serving others. Amen.

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