It's a January day in New York City and the building I work in is just off the water. What this means is that it's cold out and not just cold but cold with a biting wind. As the phrase goes, "you can feel it in your bones." My day starts early by dropping my teenager off to school nearby then waiting in my car for the doors of my courthouse to open. The officer arrives and while he makes his quick trip around the corner for coffee and a buttered roll, I get out and make my way to the doors knowing he'll be here in a few short minutes. That's the time, though short as it is, that the cold really starts to set in. I don’t like the cold weather anymore, but I endure it better than most. Today, as I endured for the very short minutes that I had to, I thought of the homeless around the city. I know the city agencies and the private firms do their best to shelter them in extreme weather conditions, but they’ll also be some that for one reason or another, stay on the streets. They'll sleep on subway grates and in building crevices and in train stations and use anything they can to lessen the sting of the wintery chill.
I imagine some get used to it. That's what I thought as I awaited entrance into this sleeping behemoth of a building that was pre-heated and ready to start the day. I Imagine it like a chronic pain. It's always there but you kind of numb to the idea it will ever go away. I could picture life on the street this way. Even layered with clothes, the frigid temperatures still attack you, but you begin to live with it day in and day out. You get used to it, but eventually, the exposure to these extreme temperatures take the ultimate toll on a body.
My point was to speak on the sin in our lives and our struggle with it. The way we get used to it and let it become a part of us. The way we can sometimes see opportunities in our lives to be rescued from those extremes but are so used to it and numb to it, we stay right we are. We'd rather make our own way and sleep on subway grates, then take a helping hand to something better. All those things are true. We love to wallow. We enjoy our weaknesses, TOO MUCH sometimes. I know I do. So yes, this was supposed to be about trusting God. This was supposed to be about knowing we don’t have to endure. That we have someone who endured the most harshest of circumstances on our behalf. Amen, God bless and go in peace.
But it's hard to write using an analogy like this without considering the actually analogy used. It's about people in need. People in more physical direct need than maybe many of can honestly grasp. We-and this "we" includes all people and not just Christians- will always be at war in our minds. We all have anxieties, doubts, despairs, depressions and a variety of other emotional baggage. I don’t need to have a heart to heart with you to know that. We, as Christians believe our faith in God helps us deal with it, not make it disappear magically. We have a Savior who sweat blood for us, cried for us, died for us. He is intimately acquainted with our suffering. He is always our help, our encouragement, our strength in our weakness. And we are ever thankful that we can come to him again and again. There is nothing we can do to lose him, outside of completely rejecting him and even then, God is always calling his prodigals home.
Today, what I'd like most remembered is that Christ enables us as well. He enables us to love and serve others. He does this in the midst of the mess that we are. He does it despite that mess. He doesn’t wait for us to get it together. We serve our family at home and our supervisors at our jobs and our neighbors and even strangers throughout our day in so many different ways. Sometimes, the way we serve is a little more deliberate than doing our respective jobs as spouse, parent, worker, neighbor, etc… Sometimes, we go outside of our normal lives and selves to help a larger community. We may give or serve in a food pantry or a soup kitchen for example. We may donate clothes and jackets to a shelter for those in need. Whatever it is, it is a help and an encouragement to others.
I am not trying to guilt you into doing more. This is not, "How are YOU serving God with your life?" This is just a simple encouragement to be a help to others around you. Maybe even be a help to those that aren't around you regularly. Be an encouragement as you struggle, like we all do, to trust God more every day. God doesn’t need our good works but those around us do. You are His. You are not more or less His by anything that you do. There is no pressure of performance or measuring stick that ranks your work on a scale of 1 to 10. In Christ, they are already an 11. Its ok to look for opportunities to serve and to find places that need help or donations.
You may even find yourself encouraged by it.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?