by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
At one point, I was afraid last month’s column might not get written, or at least printed. Like many people, I write using a computer. Usually, I write a first draft in longhand and then make my revisions on the computer. In June, two days before the deadline for the July newsletter, I found myself staring at a blank screen: Our computer was dead. Unfortunately, my typing is not the best (which is one reason I use a computer) and I didn’t want to make poor Jerry try to decipher my handwriting. Fortunately, I was able to call our pastor, Allen, and he let me use the computer in the church office. This story has a happy ending because I was able to get my column written before the deadline and I was able to fix our computer so that it’s better than ever.
Each of us has had an experience similar to mine, in which something or someone we depend on has failed us. Perhaps our car wouldn’t start, a friend wasn’t there when we needed him or her, our usual way of dealing with a problem didn’t work, or we were suddenly left without a job. When something like this happens, we can be left feeling abandoned, alone and afraid.
In his book, Leaving Home, humorist and essayist Garrison Keillor describes the fictional happenings in his imaginary home town of Lake Wobegone, Minnesota. In one instance, he describes a game he and his aunt Lois would play during trips on the bus: They would pretend they were strangers, and invent names and backgrounds for themselves. Inevitably, Keillor tired of the game first and begged, “Say that you know me. Please.”
Jesus understands our loss and alienation. All his earthly life, he had a bond, a connection, with God the father. But when he was on the cross, that bond was broken, severed, and he cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) At that moment, something happened that forty days of exposure and starvation in the wilderness had not been able to accomplish: Jesus was separated from God (Matt. 4:1-2).
Dr. Tom Baker is the pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in University City, MO, and the host of the St. Louis area radio program “Law and Gospel.” He has compared the church to a hospital where people with broken bones come to be healed, even though they may not know their bones are broken. But there are other people with broken bones, who haven’t come to the hospital, who don’t know they need healing.
There are broken people all around us—people with broken hearts, broken lives and broken relationships—people who are separated from God, who are desperately crying out, "Say that you know me. Please." The most tragic part is that they need Christ in their lives and they don’t even know what they’re missing. We are called to welcome them in Jesus’ name, to bring them healing, and help them connect with the one who will never fail us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6). Jesus calls us to say that we know them—and that he knows them too (John 10:27).
“for he has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say,
“‘The lord is my helper,
I will not be afraid;
what can man do to me?’
“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.” (Heb. 13:5b-8 RSV)