Sunday, October 21, 2007

One Thing

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the needs around you and all the causes striving to meet those needs? Entire families displaced by catastrophes and natural disasters. Starving children at home and abroad. Homeless people sleeping under the very bridges we drive across on our way to work. Single mothers struggling to make ends meet. Grown men fighting the power of addiction on a daily basis. It's almost easier to look away than it is to ponder what God would have us do. Where do we begin?

One night this summer, I was with a friend when she got a phone call from someone asking for money, which she knew would be used to satisfy a substance addiction. Wisely she recognized the vulnerability of this situation and referred the caller to a pastor. Nevertheless, as we drove through her neighborhood which skirts some of the roughest parts of our city, we pondered the question, "What can we do?"

I read through at least one of the gospels every year and am always struck by the integration of Jesus' social outreach with his preaching/teaching ministry. Almost everywhere you find him healing someone, casting out demons or raising someone from the dead. Even after long days of teaching, he was sensitive enough to the physical needs of the crowd - enough to ensure their hunger was satisfied. From the gospels, we see that Jesus cares about the whole person. Shouldn't that be our focus as well? But again, the question comes - where do we begin?

The answer, I think, is made plain in Jesus' approach to ministry. He didn't wave his hand over the crowds and forgive sins or heal the sick en mass. No, he healed them one at a time. He broke bread and with the help of his disciples, fed the multitudes one person at a time. And he forgave their sins, one person at a time, extending his hand to them and inviting them into his kingdom.

What can we do? Just one thing. Your one thing will look different from my one thing. Maybe it will only ever be one thing, one time or perhaps it will be one thing over and over again. Perhaps one thing will turn into many things, inspiring others by our example. But we have to start somewhere. We have to look at the needs and face the facts. And we have to be willing.

One thing. What will it be? What does God want? And am I willing? That's what I'm asking myself these days.