Sometimes we live our lives for our own experiences, for our own purposes, and for our own convenience. This is what we are called to place aside when we come to faith. We are called to start putting the needs of others first and to fight against the injustices of the world. We are asked to offer comfort to those who are struggling and grieving and to offer strength to the weak. We are called to think about our actions as well as the intentions behind our prayers and the focus of our lives.
God promises to comfort us when we need him. But he asks that we refocus our lives so that we are his caring touch in the life of another. So we can be his comfort made alive in this world. Growing up, my father used to say that there was nothing more important than family and taking care of people. There were many a days that he would put the needs of not only my brothers and myself first but also the needs of his uncles and aunts, and people in the neighborhood. These are the lessons that he gave to my brothers and I. These are the lessons that have been instilled into our lives. If someone is in need then you help them. But I will admit that sometimes helping others is not necessarily convenient. Sometimes plans get changed and needs may be put on hold for a while.
However this is the type of life we sign on to when we come to faith. Jesus famously gave up family to embrace all peoples as family. Jesus’ whole discourse known as the Beatitudes warns of living life just for ourselves, warning that the benefits are fleeting and do little to deepen our connection with humanity and God. Jesus lived in a time where there was huge disparity between the very wealthy and the rest of society. The poor seemed to become poorer by the year and the rich became richer. There was little understanding for the suffering of those in the most vulnerable classes of society. To top it all off, there was the belief that the rich were being rewarded for their goodness by God and those who suffered were being punished for the sinfulness of their family. Compassion existed but there was not nearly enough of it in a world where people suffered physically and spiritually.
Although, as a society we have come a long way, I believe that we have not come far enough. Many people want to know what others can do for them before they go out of their way someone else. People want outreach to those in need to fit conveniently into their schedules. But life is not convenient, suffering and lose happen indiscriminately across society. Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, wrote “We need more hope. We need more mercy. And we need more justice”.
We need more people in our world who care. We need more people who are striving to live as Jesus taught us to live and not just walking around claiming a faith and doing little to back up those words with actions. This is the plight of Christianity in the 21st century. We sometimes lose sight of the teachings of Christ in the redemption given from the cross. We forget when we go about our lives just what Christ asked of his followers. There promises to be more meaning in this life when we start reaching out to others and living for one another and fighting together and crying together.
Christ taught his disciples, “‘Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ‘Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. ’Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh’ … ‘But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. ‘Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger”. Christ was saying that those who suffer in this world are blessed and that those who have should be focusing on the plight of humanity instead of on the procurement of more riches. In the ancient world, often the wealthy focused upon obtaining more wealth and more prestige in society. Running after titles, and power, and wealth is meaningless when all is said and done. None of that will fill that void that is in the hearts of humanity.
What fills that void is God and God’s work and God asks us to consider the well being of all of humanity. We are called to consider those who mourn, those who suffer, those in need, for when we start putting the well being of others first, when we start thinking outside of ourselves then that is when we catch glimpses of God, that is when we will begin to feel God ever closer to our lives.
We are called to strive to be closer to God. In that striving, we need to open our hearts and our lives to others, to God’s work because as Christians we are called to walk the path of Christ which means a life of service to others. If we want to discover just what God has in store for us; if we want to discover God alive in our world, then we need to search for him in the works that we do. We need to place aside striving only for our own elevation in society, striving to gain only physical riches for now, and seek something deeper. So this week start your days by asking God to work through you, asking God to help you touch the life of someone in need. And in so doing, you will be building up a different more lasting treasure in heaven by working to spread the love of Christ to those that need to hear it most. Remember the counsel of the Psalms, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night”. Christ has opened our eyes to the path of happiness and contentment in this life. Let us do more than just meditate upon his teachings. Let us strive to live them and to be more like Christ with each new day.
 Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, 21st century.
 Luke 6: 20-21, 24-25, RSV.
 Psalm 1: 1-2, RSV.
(Based on Psalm 1 and Luke 6: 17-26)