Our church for those in need
Reading: Matthew 25:31-46
Thank God for the last year.
And thank God for this new year.
May we experience God more this year.
May we experience the Holy Spirit more this year.
May we get to know Jesus more this year.
Today we read what Jesus said as he was finishing his ministry.
Based on today’s Scripture reading, Leo Tolstoy wrote a Christmas story.
You know this story.
Let me tell you this story with some adjustments:
There was an elderly shoemaker in Russia.
His neighbors loved and called him “Father Martin.”
One Christmas Eve, he sat alone in his little shop.
He was reading how the Wise Men visited the infant Jesus, and offered the gifts.
He thought to himself:
“If Jesus were to be born here tonight, I have something to give Him!”
Then he took from a shelf, tiny, soft leather shoes, with bright buckles.
“I would give him these!”
Then, he blew out his candle and went to sleep.
In his dream, Jesus spoke to him:
You wished to see me.
So tomorrow I will pass by your window.
If you see me, and ask me come, then I will be your guest.”
Next morning, remembering his dream, he rose up.
Then he swept, and tidied up his little shop.
He spread fresh sand upon the floor.
He decorated his Christmas tree.
He covered his table with the spotless linen.
He placed a loaf of bread, a jar of honey, and a pitcher of milk.
Then he hung a pot of tea over the fire.
Then he was ready and waited looking at the window.
Soon, he saw an old street sweeper, shivering.
“Look at him.
He must be half frozen.”
Opening the door he called out to him:
“Come in, and warm yourself.
Drink a cup of hot tea.”
After the the man warmed his body, he left.
Later, Martin saw a young and poor woman carrying a baby.
She paused at his doorway.
So Martin opened the door and said to her:
“Come in and warm yourself awhile.”
“Are you OK?
Is everything alright?”
“I am ill. I am going to the hospital.
I hope they take me in, and my baby boy.
My husband is at sea.
I don’t know when he would be back.”
Let me offer you something to eat while you get warm.
And here is a cup of milk for your little one.
Why does your little one have no shoes on him?”
The mother sighed sadly:
“I cannot buy shoes for him.”
“Then he have this lovely shoes for him.”
Martin took down from the shelf the soft little shoes that he wanted to give Jesus.
He slipped them on the child’s feet.
They fit perfectly.
Martin helped this young mother.
Then she left, thanking him.
Again Martin waited at the window.
Many people passed by.
Many hours went by.
He welcomed some needy souls to his shop.
But he was expecting Jesus.
Then he sighed and said:
“Oh Martin, it was only a dream.”
Then suddenly, a strange light flooded the room.
Then he saw a vision.
The poor street sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and all the people whom he helped during the day, one by one appeared before him.
They smiled at him and said:
“Have you not seen me?
I have eaten with you at your table.”
Then they disappeared.
Then, the gentle voice says: (Matthew 25:40)
“Whosoever receive such one in my name, receive me.
I was hungry. You gave me food.
I was thirsty. You gave me drink.
I was a stranger. You invited me in.
Whatever you did for my little brothers and sisters, you did for me.”
This is how Tolstoy understood our reading today.
What do you think?
Again let me remind you of our reading.
Here Jesus is asking us to help those who feel left alone.
Jesus said something like this:
“One day, I will come in my glory.
All the angels come with me.
I will sit on my glorious throne.
“All the nations will be gathered before me.
I will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
I will put the sheep on my right and the goats on my left.
“Then I the King will say to those on my right:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
When I was hungry, you gave me food.
When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.
When I was a stranger, you invited me in.
I needed clothes. You clothed me.
I was sick. You looked after me.
I was in prison. You cared for me and visited me.’
“Then the righteous will said to me:
‘Lord, when did we do that?’
Then I the King will reply:
‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Here Jesus identifies himself with God’s poor.
When I read this, I remember when I didn't help a stranger.
I remember when I lost my opportunity to be kind to a tough looking stranger.
And I pray that I would help Jesus next time.
I pray that I would have courage to help strangers.
May I discern better and have faith to be kind to strangers.
May I be filled with the Holy Spirit, and allow God to change me to be kind to those in need.
I know you are very generous.
You are kind to others.
And your generosity is contagious.
And because of you, I am learning to be generous, too.
I heard about a Christian lawyer in Korea.
He was asked to defend a Muslim man in Korea.
So he prayed about this difficult case.
Then God asked him to help this man saying:
“Even though this man may not be converted because you help, but he would also help Christians in return.”
He defended his case and also helped him financially in Korea.
Then this Muslim man thanked him and returned to his nation.
They continually corresponded with each other.
Then later, this Muslim man also wanted to help a Christian family who was struggling in his Islamic Nation.
So this Muslim man and this lawyer could help this Christian family.
Kindness can be contagious.
When someone is kind and generous, we want to become like them.
When you are kind to strangers, other people also invite them in their fellowship.
As you take care of others, people around you may also take care of others who might have been neglected in this world.
When you show God’s kindness to the hungry and give food, people watch and learn to live like Jesus.
If you give a drink to the thirsty, other people may also give a drink to someone else.
When we are kind to those who have emotional and physical needs, Jesus remembers.
God is kind to the poor and strangers.
When God makes us to be kind like that, we know that we are on the way to heaven to be with Jesus forever according to our text.
Because we become kind to Jesus, God remembers.
We know that Jesus laid down his life about 2000 years ago.
Since then about 43 million Christians have become martyrs.
Even today Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or neighbors because of they believe in Jesus the Christ.
About 200 million Christians face persecution.
60% of them are children
Each month about 322 Christians are killed for their faith.
For example, North Korean Christians are persecuted.
Jesus identifies himself with them.
Then Jesus asks people to help the hungry, those who are in prison, strangers and help those who need emotional supports.
God wants Christians to help the persecuted Christians.
God is looking for those who God could work with.
If God finds them, God would even save them to use them.
God uses them to help those in prison, and the sick.
We start to pray for Uzbekistan so that this nation may welcome the gospel of Jesus.
About 2.1% of population are Christians: Islam 82.8%, Non-religious 14.6%.
Through the state-controlled media, the government said that Christians are extremists.
The government designated some places for Christians to worship God.
If Christians read the Bibles and sing Christian songs together in other places, the police raid them and punish them by giving them fines, detention, and arrest for illegal religious activity.
Many Christians want to help this nation change and prosper.
This nation has been changing recently.
They now have a new president, after such a long dictatorship.
Recently they decided to encourage more tourists to come to nations.
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan simplified their border crossing for their citizens.
In Kazakhstan, over 21% of population are Christians.
May people of these nations overcome its spiritual poverty, financial poverty, emotional poverty, educational poverty, informational poverty, relational poverty, relationship poverty.
May Uzbekistan welcome Christians and most importantly Jesus.
Through our prayer, a nation can change.
So we want to pray as Jesus asks us to pray.
When we pray for others, we are praying for Jesus.
As the Holy Spirit guides us, we want to pray for the persecuted Christians.
As we pray for them, God may inform us so that we may pray.
As we pray, God may work and solve some problem.
God may use our prayer to ease someone else’s sufferings and pain.
We also pray for this city.
We pray for universities in this city.
We pray for churches in this city.
The Holy Spirit may change the city and become new people of God.
I also remember one of you said that you want to support poor villages to have clean water which is necessary to live a healthier life.
When we want that, we may need to start praying first.
With prayer, things can go move smoothly.
When God works, everything moves so smoothly and soundly.
And people can really be helped.
As we pray, we may also have God’s spiritual support.
Then we may discern better.
Then when we have enough faith, we may serve God in God’s way.
God may bless us and asks us to do what we need to do.
When we do God’s works in God’s way, we may sense the greater presence of the Holy Spirit and experience God’s blessing.
In this way, we may meet God.
As we serve those in need, we may meet God.
As we take care of others, God takes care of us,
All those who live like this go on to live eternal life, because they have done all these to Jesus.
May Jesus create a beautiful heart in us to share God’s love.
May God bless us even more financially, emotionally, spiritually so that we may be able to help those in need in the name of Jesus.
Jesus, thank you for your help in our life.
Thank you for making us the people that you want us to be.
May we also serve you by serving our brothers and sisters.
Help us to help you in this world.
In your name, we pray.