‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
Jesus came to the door of our church today looking for some help. He came with a friend who has this problem with substance abuse and it seems no one is willing to help him. This isn’t the first time Jesus showed up like this, unexpected and with a friend, it happens quite often these days. You see, I meet Jesus all over the city. Most times he is by himself, waiting for the bus, or looking for some spare change to get a bite to eat. Our Lord is quite a humble fellow. Much of the time he makes little noise and if folks aren’t careful, they will completely overlook him as he blends into the faceless crowds downtown.
Today Jesus and his friend were waiting for me on the steps at the side entrance of our church. I have to say, his friend looked awful, especially for someone who has the pleasure of walking the streets with Christ the Lord. As I sat next to him he kept muttering something about being sick and tired of being sick and tired. You see, for as long as this gentleman can remember, he has been addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine. His family has turned against him, sons and daughters, cousins and other relatives have no need for his foolishness. That’s what happens you know, when your next high becomes your god. Your world comes crashing in and you need God’s compassion and mercy more than ever. I suppose that’s why Jesus brought him here.
I recognized him right off, both of them, Jesus and his friend. His nickname is Red and he is a resident of our surrounding streets. Believe it or not, his late wife was actually a member of our congregation years ago, until she went on to glory. Maybe that’s why Red is so hard on himself. Even though she died of natural causes, he assumes most of the blame for his wife’s passing. To be honest, it wasn’t his fault, but I’m sure the booze and the drugs didn’t help matters much. He’s told me at least that much before.
But today was different. “Pastor”, he said, “I’m done. If I can’t get someone to help me today I’m just going to say goodbye.” “You going away” I asked him? “Yeah, going away, for good, dirt nap, I’m done, ending it.” I wish I could say his comments caught me off guard, but I have seen this coming for some time now. Red is a frequent flyer in the emergency rooms around town, and he might even have a jail cell or two with a welcome mat at the door in his honor. He gets high, they pick him up, he dries out, they let him go. It’s seems to be a never ending cycle.
I brought Red up to the office, Jesus came up too, and we made a few phone calls. “Does he have insurance? We don’t accept Medicaid” “We don’t have a program for crack cocaine abuse. Try so-and-so.” …also a never ending cycle. I wonder, if I had told the folks on the line that it was Jesus with the addiction problem, would they listen? Would they help?
Finally, one of God’s people answered our call. I could tell it was one of God’s people because they only asked questions about Jesus’ friend. No mention of insurance, no questions about money. No arm twisting, leg pulling or one single, minute little word about money of any kind. (God’s people know that God will provide.) “Bring him here.” They said, “We’ll get him in to see a doctor and also have a psych evaluation waiting.”
When I had hung up the phone I asked Red if this is what he really wanted. He looked at me with empty eyes and nodded. Finally, choking back a few tears he told me, “All I wanted was someone to take me serious. Thank you.” I drove Red to the doctor’s office in my pick-up, Jesus went along for the ride. Thirty minutes later he was in the office of the person he needed to see. Climbing back into my truck, I turned the key and headed off alone. Jesus didn’t wait around; I suppose he had other pressing matters. He is the Christ you know.
I had a few moments to think about what had just happened. “All I wanted was someone to take me serious.” The words stuck with me the entire ride back to the church. Questions also came rushing in. Who cares for those no one cares about? Why is it that people with money can get help, but the helpless can’t because they have no money? Like I said, questions…no answers.
Rounding the corner to my office I saw one more familiar sight. Jesus was at the bus stop with a sign displaying but one word; “Hungry.” Five dollars later our Lord had a meal, and my questions had answers.