If We Only Knew

Dec 31 2017


The Gospel lesson for this morning simply asks us to reach out to others as if every one whom we encounter is Christ. Jesus is speaking to the righteous and he says, “I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.” When they question Jesus regarding when they did all those things, he answers, “ Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

On the morning of Thanksgiving, an aspiring young attorney, the son of Rev. David Gaeth, Pastor of Greendale Community UCC, died. To bring as much comfort and aid as he could to David and his family, Rev. Franz Rigert conducted the Sunday service. This is what happened during the offering. Franz Rigert relates:

“When the offering time came, I sat down, relieved to have given what little I could to God's people. While the plates were moving through the sanctuary, unbeknownst to all of us, a little boy got up in the back and began to walk down the center aisle. He came all the way up into the chancel area holding out a gift, as though presenting it to the Lord's Table. Instead he handed it to me. It was a simple, practical love offering - a box of Kleenex. Yet it was a profound reminder that Jesus calls us to bring care and compassion to a broken and hurting world.

In the coming days, word spread to Dave, Jan and Carly about this "little child" who led them. The story came to symbolize this congregation's promise to pour out their love in deep and abiding ways. Eventually, the Gaeth's asked the obvious question, "Well who was the little boy?" Strangely, nobody could identify him! God's angelic messenger had come in the form of a mysterious Christlike child to bring comfort and calling to the people.”

We try as members of this church to provide food, clothing, and welcome to strangers. But do we ever really know the impact that we have on others? Do we ever really know about the ways in which our words and our actions affect the lives of someone else? Will we ever really know the impact of our actions? Maybe not, but the woman in the story I am going to relate to you never forgot someone who had helped her and years later returned the favor.

"A seated homeless man slowly looked up. There stood a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new. She looked like she had never missed a meal in her life. His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before. 

"Leave me alone," he growled... To his amazement, the woman continued standing. She was smiling -- her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows.


Are you hungry?" she asked. 
"No," he answered sarcastically. "I've just come from dining with the president. Now go away. "

The woman's smile became even broader.

 Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm. "What are you doing, lady?" the man asked angrily. "I said to leave me alone.

  Just then a policeman came up. "Is there any problem, ma'am?" he asked. 

"No problem here, officer," the woman answered. "I'm just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?"

 The officer scratched his head. "That's old Jack. He's been a fixture around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?"

"See that cafeteria over there?" she asked. "I'm going to get him something to eat and get him out of the cold for awhile." Are you crazy, lady?" the homeless man resisted. "I don't want to go in there!" Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up.

They got Jack into the cafeteria and sat him at a table in a remote corner. It was the middle of the morning, so most of the breakfast crowd had already left and the lunch bunch had not yet arrived.

 The manager strode across the cafeteria and stood by his table. The officer told the manager that they had brought Jack into be fed. "Not in here!" the manager replied angrily. "Having a person like that here is bad for business."

Old Jack smiled a toothless grin. "See, lady. I told you so.” The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled. "Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?" 

"Of course I am," the manager answered impatiently. "They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms." 

"And do you make a goodly amount of money providing food at these weekly meetings?"

 "What business is that of yours?"

 I, sir, am Penelope Eddy, president and CEO of the company." 


 The woman smiled again. "I thought that might make a difference.


She glanced at the cop who was busy stifling a laugh. “Would you like a cup of coffee to go?" 

”Yes, ma'am. That would be very nice."


She sat down at the table across from her amazed dinner guest. She stared at him intently. 

"Jack, do you remember me?"

 Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes. "I think so -- I mean you do look familiar." 

"I'm a little older perhaps," she said. "Maybe I've even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry."

"I was just out of college," the woman began. "I had come to the city looking for a job, but I couldn't find anything. Finally I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for days. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I 
saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat."

Jack lit up with a smile. "Now I remember," he said. "I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy."

 "I know," the woman continued. "Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over and saw you put the price of my food in the cash register, I knew then that everything would be all right..."

"So you started your own business?" Old Jack said. 

"I got a job that very afternoon. Eventually I started my own business that, with the help of God, prospered."

She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. "When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He's the personnel director of my company. I'll go talk to him now and I'm certain he'll find something for you to do around the office. "

She smiled. "I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always open to you."

There were tears in the old man's eyes. "How can I ever thank you?" he asked. 

"Don't thank me," the woman answered. "God led me to you."

 Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the woman paused at the entrance before going their separate ways. "Thank you for your help officer," she said. 

"On the contrary, Ms. Eddy," he answered. "Thank you. I saw a miracle today, something that I will never forget, And thank you for the coffee." (Received via e-mail in 2009)

We all talk about New Year’s resolutions. For 2018, let our resolution be to reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters in Christ and to be a Christ to others. Let us resolve to do more to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit those who cannot visit us, and welcome the stranger.

We may never know what a powerful impact we have had on another person’s life. They may not return to tell us. But God knows. And in the final analysis, if God knows and we know that we have done what we could to help another, we will have fulfilled our New Year’s Resolution to be a Christ to others. Amen.