"Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto Me!" Matthew 25:40
This is a story that I frequently share when teaching religion classes, and despite the fact that it happened over thirty-five years ago, the details return with such clarity each time that I share it due to the emotional impact it had on me.
It happened on the day that I cashed the first paycheck that I had received as an official Lutheran school teacher. And after four years in college and working various part-time positions, this was the largest amount of money that I ever received in one paycheck! Leaving the bank and feeling very grown up, I proceeded to my next adult task - the grocery store.
As I walked into the store, I immediately found myself in the middle of a confrontation, as a group of men were circling around an elderly gentleman. One man, who was obviously an employee, was yelling, "I saw you take it! Where did you put it?", while another "official looking" manager instructed him, "Pull up your shirt!" Paralyzed by shock, I kind of stood there as the elderly man obediently pulled up his top, only to reveal a package of a meat that was hidden under his clothing. The first gentleman victoriously shouted, "I knew you took it!", while the other manager demanded, "Why did you take it?" In one of the most desperate voices that I've ever heard, the elderly man replied, "Because I'm hungry."
Instinctively, I decided to immediately remove myself from the situation. I grabbed what I needed and got out of the store as quickly as possible. It wasn't until I returned home that I had realized the opportunity that I had just missed. Never in my life did I possess as much money as I did at that particular moment, and yet, even though I heard that man profess his hunger, I ignored his plea. I could have easily fixed that problem and paid for that man to have something to eat; yet, I did nothing. Ashamed of my self-centeredness, I sat in my driveway and cried.
Scripture states in Matthew 25, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." One day, I will stand before the Lord asking, "Lord when did I see you hungry?" He will reply, "That day in 1984 at the Kroger grocery store; for whatever you do for the least of them, you do for me."
For the past week, St. Matthew Lutheran Church and School have been participating in World Vision’s Matthew 25 Challenge, a program designed to bring awareness regarding those living in poverty. Did you know that every day, 16,000 children under the age of five die, and most of them are from preventable causes? The sad reality is that nearly half of this group suffers from malnutrition!
Through the Matthew 25 Challenge, participants have experienced just a very small glimpse of what it is like to miss a meal, drink only water, wear the same clothes two days in a row, or sleep on the floor. All of the experiences are leading up to a very exciting event that will occur this Sunday entitled “CHOSEN SUNDAY”! On April 18th, Rev. Josh Peigh will serve as a guest preacher during all St. Matthew worship services. At the conclusion of each service, families will have the opportunity to “Do Something” to help a child in need by becoming a World Vision sponsor!
Becoming a World Vision sponsor opens the door to so many blessings! Not only will your monthly support provide your sponsored child with clean water, proper nutrition, medical care, and an education, but you will also have the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with your child by exchanging letters!
In addition, there is a new and exciting twist to this selection process! Now, interested families will have the opportunity to either submit a family photo or have their photos taken after services. These photos will then be sent to Zambia, where children in a specific village will select for themselves their own specific sponsors. Before COVID, the intent was for Pastor Paul to be in Zambia watching this process unfold as children selected their St. Matthew Sponsor families. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and related travel restrictions, this can no longer happen, but World Vision will document this event for us!
All selections will be shared on “Reveal Sunday”, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 25th. During this time, all sponsoring families/organizations will receive a packet of information and photo of their new sponsored child!
One of our main priorities at St. Matthew Lutheran School is to provide our students with opportunities to “Do Something” where they can share Jesus’ love with others. As a school, we have decided to participate during “Chosen Sunday” and sponsor a child through World Vision as we do through Compassion International. As a result, we will submit the photo at the top of this article and pray with great excitement for the child that will select our school as his/her sponsors.
We look forward to watching the Lord bless this endeavor, and we will share the information regarding our sponsor child in two weeks!
In His Love,