Don't lose heart! Have courage!
Good morning! My name is Mabeth Hudson and I chair the outreach committee. This candle I’m holding is a symbol of our Outreach ministry. Each outreach committee member here today has one. I’m here to encourage you to shine your unique light to love and serve- to become part of God’s healing work. Also, I want to thank you for your financial support that helps serve our neighbors in need.
In the world of the needy there’s a lot. So much need everywhere. It can be overwhelming. Especially the current state of our city and our neighbors just a few miles away. There’s a lot of suffering and many people who need help- especially the children.
We could lose heart. But let’s not. Let’s give heart to one another- encourage one another to do the work of love and service. Did you know that courage is rooted in the word “heart”? When we have courage, we take heart. When we are discouraged we lose heart. When we are encouraging one another, we are giving each other heart.
Today’s Gospel story has an air of desperation about it. Jesus gives us a parable so we don’t lose heart, telling us to be persistent in our prayer and hope, and assuring us that God hears us.
In it, we are assured that God doesn’t sleep. Even though things look bleak, God is at work, listening, accompanying us, bringing healing, answering prayers, in surprising ways that we can’t see. There is light in the darkness. God is at work…but God also needs our help. We must be the hands and feet of Christ.
In his book The Universal Christ (I highly recommend it!), Richard Rohr writes that we are all caught up in this “Cosmic Sweep Of Divine Love.” Isn’t that a beautiful image? The Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love. I imagine shining lights everywhere…an immense swoosh of Love and Light breaking through in the darkness. Rohr points out that we carry each other’s suffering AND that God suffers with us. The key is how to become willing participants in the Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love. Your unique gifts are needed!
Here at Good Shepherd, mission groups are central to our outreach efforts. A mission group is made up of diverse people who come together to focus on a specific need or ministry. In mission groups, we humbly bring our unique gifts and talents, listen for God’s call, encourage one another, and become part of the Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love through service. And we laugh, stumble along, and learn from our mistakes.
Mission groups mirror our outreach committee work. When we meet, we gather around a candle, listen for God’s guidance and call, imagine possibilities, encourage one another, pray together. Most importantly, we are in relationship with those whom we serve. We strengthen and uplift one another.
Sound familiar? Yes! Jesus created a mission group when he brought together the 12 disciples. They listened for God’s call, encouraged one another, prayed together, and were transformed. Small groups are central to our faith tradition. Here is a story from someone who feels called to help. Alex Fisher, a parish member, was a guest at our last Outreach meeting. He wants us to help a woman named Lorraine Diggs. I received this email from Alex:
Dear Mabeth, I have known Lorraine for 3 years in connection with Baltimore Tree Trust plantings in East Baltimore. She works tirelessly to raise money to help the poor in her neighborhood. I have taken clothes and other used household items to her in connection with this. Each year I also make a gift of cash so the children may have Christmas toys. Most recently I have helped her with a gift (matched by Arianne from her discretionary fund) to purchase new shoes for children returning to school in August. Lorraine, like many in the city, gets by on very little but goes out of her way to help others. I think your group might benefit from knowing her and possibly assisting her in her mission.
I invited him to come to our committee meeting. We listened to Alex describe his relationship with Lorraine, her heart, and how she is a cares for her neighbors. He lamented the suffering and the heartbreaking conditions he sees as he walks through the city streets. We empathized; our hearts were moved. How do we respond to Lorraine? To the many needs in the world?
We invited him to think about how we could establish a meaningful relationship with Lorraine and the people she serves. We can’t just provide shoes, clothing, Christmas gifts or money; we need to be in relationship with Lorraine and the people she is trying to help. Serving others is not about going in to “fix” a problem. Serving is about being with others in loving, messy relationship, and working together to improve lives.
We gave him the example of the transformative relationships we have formed with the children and families in West Baltimore through St. Luke’s Youth Center. How we began helping with Christmas Café, a way to provide Christmas gifts for the community. How we now host a camp, provide tutoring, and dinner once a month. How we are working with them to set up a computer café. How we helped them form a 501c3 organization so that they can obtain grant money that will have a lasting impact on lives. Our lives are now entwined with the children and families that we serve.
Alex was intrigued. He’s joining the outreach committee so that he can listen for God’s call and imagine possibilities for a mission group to address the needs of Lorraine and her neighbors.
We invite you into this work! Perhaps you’d like to join Alex to explore ways to serve and be in relationship with Lorraine and her neighbors in East Baltimore. Or join Ellen Hoitsma in a mission group around Caring for the Earth? Or perhaps you are feeling a heart-tug or call towards another need. There are so many ways to be part of it, including prayer, like the persistent widow.
And, if you come to the adult ed class on joy, you will learn that serving others is a sure fire way to discover more joy. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says: “Our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.”
In closing, take heart, have courage, and shine your light into a corner that needs it. Trust that our Loving God will guide you. We are partners in God’s healing work in the world- The Cosmic Sweep of Divine Love. Amen.