Some of you will remember the Blackout in August 2003. It was huge. It covered most of Northeastern United States and Canada. It lasted up to 4 days and caught people by surprise as there was no storm or seeming reason. Turns out it was a bug in the software system. I was taking my kids to the airport and we were of course low on gas. None of the gas stations had power. As you can imagine there was and sense of emergency and panic. Word got out that a gas station in Whitby had somehow managed to power up their pumps. However they were charging an exorbitant rate. They were taking advantage of people in need and it was not received well. As a foot note -after the blackout the local residents boycotted the gas station and it went bankrupt.
Recently in the Covid crisis we saw the same action. I do know that some of the price gouging was not the fault of the local store as they were getting gouged by the suppliers. Some supplies were very scarce. At some point someone will write a documentary on the emotional trauma of toilet paper hoarding.
But some saw a chance to take advantage of people in need and make money off them. When you see a bottle of hand sanitizer selling for $35, you know they are just “cleaning up” on us.
The point is, that money should not be the motive for helping others. You should not try to get rich off your ability to help others.
There is a powerful statement about Jesus when it says he was going about the area healing and preaching and “when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them”
One of the temptations that Jesus faced was to make money off his talents.
Can you imagine how popular he would have been then or now if he could cure every disease? He could easily have become the most wealthy person in the world.
But his motivation was not money. And that was and is a difficult idea for our world to understand.
There is lots of discussion about the finances of the pharmaceutical companies. Are they extorting us or do they need that kind of money for research and development? There are lots of questions about private health care. Who is making money and how much. More recently there are huge questions about the for-profit senior care homes. Is the interest in helping people, or the financial bottom line for the individuals involved, the biggest motivation. We have had the same issue with charities. Every year a report comes out, usually around Christmas about what charities do with their money and which one is the most honest.
However, during this pandemic we have seen glimpses, in fact pages of stories of generosity. Many reports have come to me about people who suddenly found a neighbour or friend who desperately needed help and instead of charging for their time, they did it for free. I have heard of restaurants donating their food, people delivering supplies, people phoning each other, many other examples and the powerful part is, they are not asking for returns. I recently asked a man how much he had spent on helping his neighbours. His response was “I have no idea”. That is powerful.
Jesus was always aware of motivations when it came to doing good. In one place he says “Don’t stand in the public square and pray. Don’t be religious if you are doing it to get fame
Another place he says “Don’t let anyone know the good you have done”. That is a tricky one, especially if someone else gets credit for something you have done.
I will insert here an oddity – simply because it is in the story and people will ask about it. Jesus says “Go nowhere among the Gentiles”. He wasn’t prejudice but rather he wanted his disciples to do the hard work It was a lot easier to introduce Christian faith to the non-jews than it was to the established church. The synagogue had more baggage then those who had nothing to lose. So he was leaving the tougher job for those better trained.
Then he goes back and talks about motivation in a roundabout way. He sends his disciples out and tells them to basically take nothing. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
This is the passage that gives ministers trouble. This is the passage that some churches use to negotiate the salary. Just kidding. People will periodically refer to it and say “Why does it cost to have church. Faith is free”. My response is “Why does it cost to have a concert – music is free” To operate anything in our society people need to be paid, because they have bills. The point is – it is not about the money – it is about the motivation.
A popular discussion especially in the early church was “which is better: faith or works?” I believe if you have faith then that becomes the motivation for works. One ties into the other.
A child said to their parent, “If we are here to help others – what are the others here for”? The fact is – sometimes we are the others – sometimes we are the ones who need help and it’s nice to know that the person who is helping us is doing it because they want to.
This story comes out of the United States and is apropos at this time. The police were called to evict a 19 yr old who put up a tent on the campus of a college in Georgia. When they talked to him they found out that he had ridden his little brother’s bike for 6 hour in the heat to enrol in the college. He didn’t have enough money to get a motel. The police put him up in a motel at their own expense and when they told some others, they started a GoFundMe and the young man got his tuition paid. Neither the police nor the neighbours got anything out of that except the sheer joy of seeing someone helped.
If you do good deeds for money – you will never have enough money.
If you do good deeds for fame you will never be famous enough.
If you do good deeds for joy, for compassion, for love, – you will succeed. You will find them.
Isn’t it wonderful when your footprint brings joy to the heart of someone.
God, we sometimes get consumed by our own needs. Our need to succeed; Our need to be important; Our need to number one. But help us God to listen humbly to the voice of our brothers and sisters around us, regardless of their race or their lifestyle, or their fears, or their level of success. We all have needs; we all have hopes and dreams. Help us all to have compassion and love.
Open our hearts and minds to see Christ in everyone and everything.
We pray now for people who are close to us, We pray for others who especially need pray at this time.
Now we pray in the way Jesus taught us.
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name, Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever Amen
SERVICE June 14
Hymn – 602 Blest Be the Tie that Binds
Scripture Matthew 9: 35-38 and 10:5 -14
Hymn 595 We are Pilgrims
Go now in Peace
Go now in peace, Never be afraid
God will go with you, each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do,
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there, watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith and in love
Amen, Amen, Amen