Thursday, January 6, 2011

Matthew 25: 31-46 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This past Sunday, fitting with God doing what God pastor, Neal preached on this parable.  In the past 4-5 weeks my head has been with my family in S.C.  My step-dad has been..., is seriously ill and the week prior to Thanksgiving, it was felt he wouldn't be with us at Christmas.  So the weeks that followed were filled with emotions, words, planning, getting his affairs in order.  As of 1/7/11...he is still with us, and although he's still a terminally sick man, God has revealed many things through this experience.  While I thought I wasn't focusing on 'my trip,' I now realize...that no, I wasn't...but God was and is. 

My pastor, in his sermon, posed a question that I'm sure was pondered back in Jesus' day...what will determine if we've done enough?  Who has the most toys?  Our possessions?  What standards were used by Jesus when he stated this parable? 

This parable was the final message/parable that was proclaimed to the Disciples from our Savior Jesus Christ before he died.  The sheep illustrate the good and the goats...the bad.
Reading above you see that the 'bad' responses are pretty much saying-if we had known it was you, we would have.....  Well of course you would!  Who wouldn't?  We've all been there, done that.  The 20/20, hindsight of the bible.  It's mind boggling to think about how God will judge our response or reaction to human what we see and witness every day.  That person on the street with a sign that says 'help me' or 'will work for food.'  Do you judge?  I can't say that I haven't...and you're not going to believe this, but ever since I watched Bruce Almighty...I've tried to see that person standing there as if it were Jesus Christ himself. 

I love being in the Barahona!  It's like home to me, and it's so easy to be the person Christ wants me to be...I laugh, as I type this...but it's true.  You see, we're so over-exposed to materialism and 'stuff' that distracts us from truly being who God wants us to be.  It is natural for our hearts to be loving and 'stuff' gets in the way sometimes...often times, distracting us from doing what our hearts know is right.  Our behavior towards other people reflects our behavior toward God.  Over there, my heart, is unselfishly His to do what He directs me to's so easy & beautiful. 

Every year, takes several weeks to really 'come home.'  Last year, after the earthquake and all the emotions that went with it....even upon arriving home, Susan and I collected crutches & money to send to Connie for the Haitians there in Barahona.  I had the privilege of helping get a wheelchair for a young woman who became paralyzed as a result of the earthquake and God worked it out for another team to take it to her.  Because of all of this, I carried those emotions a little longer than I 'normally' do and it bothers me when I begin slipping back into the materialism of my world.  I say every year it's not going to happen...but it does.  I do feel that I am learning a little more every year of things that aren't 'so' necessary in my life and I am more conscious of waste within my life.  But, I am still human and still a work in progress.

I say all this to say, we,  We never know when "we will be the least of these" and should always look at that someone God puts in your path as if it were Christ himself standing there.  Don't allow that situation to occur that you look back and say, "God if I had known it was you, I would have..." 

In Barahona, teams of volunteers, who pay their own way to get there & stay to do the work of Christ in simple or uncalculating ways...happens many times a year.  The sweetest memories of how God works through the individuals on each team to do things that no one can calculate but God Himself. 

A pink stocking cap showing up in supplies one year...seriously?  Stocking cap?  In the Dominican where there's humidity & heat year round...later in the week, I picked that cap out of a box of 'not needed stuff' to put it on a little baby boy after he had surgery because he was so cold...God knew.  One year, the clinic team was asked to check on an aids patient in the Batey...they passed him through the windows of the bus on a board, and brought him into the hospital.  He was given IV fluids, food, a place to lay his head, but more importantly he was prayed for...and died knowing he was a child of God.  Team members, themselves finding out & discovering things about themselves that they never would have known had they not gone to offer themselves hot, sweaty, nasty....raw, to their Lord.

I for one, learned on my first not pity those sweet people.  Yes, they lack in health care & food.  But, they are rich in things that I can never portray or explain.  Children play baseball and soccer outside in the dirt...not on video games.  They play....outside!  People sit outside and talk, visit with each other...not on the phone or computers.  Their lives are simple, to a certain looks poor.  But, look of the simplicity are as beautiful as the scenery they live in itself...their lives are real!!  They are living more in reality than we are I think.

The sermon Sunday, reminded me of many things...I am still human, so I'm still selfish & materialistic...and many, many times...I still miss the mark.  But, I do love my Savior, Jesus Christ...and I love going home to Barahona, Dominican Republic.  I have family there...Jorge, Raisa, Maria, Connie, Amy, Chaggy, Pedro, Leo, and others.  Over there I can be a nasty, sweaty, child of God who just wants to offer a simple smile, hug, or anything I can to someone who needs it., I can do the same...but as the months becomes complicated again. 

Yes, over the past 4-6 weeks, my mind has been pre-occupied with my step-dad...but through it, I now realize God has used this time for me to talk to Him a lot!!  To devote my quite time to talking to Him, being specific about my prayers and relying on the prayers of others to sustain me and my family through some difficult days and weeks. During nights of sitting up watching our Papa sleep & struggle to breathe...talking to him, listening to him talk, cry, work his way through dealing with his sickness and impending death....I'm tired from traveling back and forth from N.C. to S.C....trying to work both down there and at home when I'm here...emotionally & physically exhausted. Trying to be ready for the holidays...because like it or not...they were here. Yep...He has been using this time to remind me that 'it's not about me!!'

The Least of These....

It seems that every year it takes a little bit longer to 'come home' in my heart and mind...January 2010 will forever be a part of my heart and mind.  January 12, 2010...the Haiti earthquake.  Being in Barahona, Dominican Republic and God allowing a few of those sweet survivors cross our paths.  To enrich our lives and when I see pictures within my home, my heart smiles way before the curve of my mouth.  I thank God for those faces...and for the memories I'll carry with me forever. 

For the past 8 years, I've realized by the Grace of God I live where I live...but then when I really think long and hard about it...I'm not sure if I'm the one that's blessed or they are there in the Dominican.  We are so blessed here in the United States...sometimes I think too blessed and as a friend and one of our docs replied as we were pulling out of Barahona on the bus headed to Santo Domingo toward home..."we never know when we will be the least of these."