I always find stories of radical compassion, love, care and giving to be so inspirational. They are a reminder to me that God calls us to more in life then to be worrying about ourselves. They remind me that God’s care is so great for me and all of humanity and life that he watches over us with a diligence and care that reveals itself in the world around us and in the works we are called to do.
At one time, I was blessed to know such a person who truly lived into the care and compassion of Christ in all that she did. Her children are a little bit younger than me and she took me under her wing when we were in Israel and made sure that I kept out of trouble while we were there. She became a surrogate mother to me for those 10 days away from home. Ruthann was a beautiful person inside and out. Never a negative word or comment came out of her mouth about anyone and anything.
In the 90s, she came across an article in the paper written by a young family desperate to find their son a kidney donor, as he was getting pretty close to dying from the disease that had taken his kidneys. So moved by their story, Ruthann went to Yale New Haven to be tested to see if she could possibly be a match. Sure enough, God must have watching over that little boy that day because she was a perfect match.
She gave that child more than just her kidney. She gave him an opportunity at life. She gave that family relief and care in an impossible time. She cared for that family even after giving her kidney. She regularly spoke with them and visited the family and even invited them to church on Sunday. She became a mentor and friend, taking a special interest in the life on that young man. She truly lived into her Christian faith with each day. She regularly worked to care more freely, to give of herself everything she had to give, and she loved everyone with an intensity that I haven’t seen since or before. She was the living embodiment of the teachings from our scriptures this morning. She acted boldly with her faith believing that God would guide her through and take care of her and the child.
Our scriptures are well known. The 23rd Psalm is all about trusting in the care of God. Though we know very little about the author and what his life experience was at the time he wrote this psalm, we do know that he trusted in God in the risky times of life; affectively assuring him in life that he was not alone and that he had a relationship with God that would provide for him in all of his needs. He believed in the protection of the Lord, as the gracious host, who offered solace and honor at his table and in his tent.
Sometimes we don’t trust in the Lord as much as we should. We are fearful of the costs that we may or may not encounter in our lives as we try to live into his love. We are not as fully invested in God’s message as the Psalmist from this morning was. But if we put our trust in the Lord, then that frees us up to work harder, to care more, to love more, and to give of ourselves more freely. If we have faith then we can allow God to work through us more openly and in the process we can have an effect on this crazy and sometimes violent world. We can change the world one life at a time.
This was how the apostles approached their new mission, Christ’s mission in the world. They trusted in God. They trusted in the message of Christ. They gave of themselves for the care and building up others. They loved humanity more fully and freely gave of themselves: talents and gifts, for the betterment of humanity. They risked threats from the Jewish leaders and Roman state. And many faced death for the message they lived still trusting in the care and strength of the Lord. And they changed the world with their message. Christianity went from being a small cult of just about 20 shortly after the death of Christ to being the recognized state religion of Rome with Constantine in the 300s AD. In the span of 300 hundred years, Christianity was well on its way to being one of the most practiced religions of the world. The world had been changed with this very small movement of believers caring for others with all they had. It seems impossible and yet with God working through humanity the impossible became reality.
For those who question God’s presence and active work in the present, I would draw their attention to world history shows us his work. But for those who still have questions about God in today’s world, we only need to remember the words of a 12th century mystic Hildegard Bingen, which still holds truth today, when she wrote about God, “I am the breeze that nurtures all green things. I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits. I am the rain coming from the dew that causes the grasses to laugh with the joy of life”. God is working all around us from the smallest of plants to the complex workings of humanity. God is here in the works that we do reminding others that God has not forgotten them. But rather that God works through the hands of others, as he did with the Apostles and the people who came to believe in God’s care through the community that was extended to all peoples. Our scriptures say, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God”. They go on to say that living the life of compassion and care lead to the faithful increasing increase of believers.
When we care, love, and give generously and freely to those who are in need; when we take care of those who have no one else, then we are making a difference in the world. We can change the course of someone’s life just by living into the message of Christ. It has happened before and it is happening now. So our challenge is to trust in the care of the Lord, to love God enough to care for his people, to extend a helping hand when needed, and to find ways to lift up his people in a world that seeks to hold people down. So go forth and live the work of Christ. Join with one another in our ministries, in our opportunities to reach out in love and compassion to all who suffer. This is how we were always meant to live our lives: generously, lovingly, and compassionately.
 Hildegard Bingen, 12th century Mystic.
 Acts 2: 45-46, NRSV.
(based on Psalm 23 and Acts 2: 42-47)