Storytime

“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” 

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

—Matthew 25:35-40

I saw the following story on Facebook, which probably means there is no truth to it, but it is a good story with a worthy message.

A pastor transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the church, where he was to be introduced as the head pastor that morning. He walked around his soon-to-be church for thirty minutes while it was filling with people for service. Only three people said hello to him; most looked the other way. He asked people for change to buy food because he was hungry. Not one person gave him anything. 

He went into the sanctuary to sit in the front of the church and was told by the ushers that he would need to get up and sit in the back of the church. He said hello to people as they walked in but was greeted with cold stares and dirty looks from people looking down on him and judging him. He sat in the back of the church and listened to the church announcements for the week. He listened as new visitors were welcomed into the church that morning, but no one acknowledged that he was new. He watched people around him continue to look his way with stares that said you are not welcome here. 

Then the church elders went to the podium to make the announcement. They said they were excited to introduce the church’s new pastor to the congregation. The congregation stood up and looked around, clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. That’s when all the clapping stopped, and the church was silent. With all eyes on him, he walked to the altar and reached for the microphone. He stood there momentarily and then recited these verses from the Bible so elegantly.

“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” 

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

After he recited this, he introduced himself as their new pastor and told the congregation what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and bow their heads in shame. “Today I see a gathering of people here but I do not see a church of Jesus. The world has enough people that look the other way. What the world needs is disciples of Jesus that can follow His teachings and live as He did.” He then dismissed service until the following Sunday as his sermon had been given.

While I doubt this happened, I can believe the parishioners would have been crying crocodile tears. Many modern-day Christians do one of two things when they are confronted with their hypocrisy. They either shed crocodile tears and act sorrowful for their shameful behavior while they would do the same thing the next day, or they double down on their hypocrisy and claim they are right and others are wrong.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones, but she said none of those things. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thigh bone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, you die if you break your leg. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. Mead explained that a broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, bound up the wound, carried the person to safety, and tended to the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts.

 The moral of these two stories is simple: We are at our best when we serve others. Be civilized and help your fellow man whenever you can.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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