Text: Matthew 25:31-46
A relationship begins when there is a need for each other. The two parties in any relationship complement one another whether it’s between partners, a parent and a child, a teacher and a student. Having needs doesn’t diminish a healthy and viable relationship. Needs can enhance and foster the relationship. But we have to be careful about the balance so no one ends up only receiving or giving.
Paul said it right when he described church as the body of Christ. The body does not consist of one member but of many. When one member of the body says to another ‘I have no need of you,’ that is the end of their relationship. Those who belong to the one body, must know how much they need other members, and how much they are needed by the rest. To become the body of Christ, it takes everyone.
One of the things I have noticed while working in the United Church is that people in the United Church in general are committed to responding to the needs in the world, but don’t talk about their own needs. In our worship we pray to God on behalf of those who are suffering or in pain, but we are not comfortable sharing how others can pray for us. It is true that every Sunday we come to worship with our own needs, but our encounter with God happens in relation to the congregation and its relation to the world. So the question is how to listen to God’s voice through the voices of ourselves as well as through the voices of those who are not with us? The dominant voice can change a conversation to a monologue. Banishing our needs for others sets us apart from the body of Christ.
During our Congregational Giving Program, I ask people to tell their story. Notice the question I ask. It’s not what they’ve done for the church, but how the church changed their lives. I have seen how generous and caring you are. That makes me wonder about your experience that nourished you so you are able to give back. You have it to give back. I don’t assume that everyone’s experience is only positive. Instead, the question invites us to examine our relationship with God through the church. We can celebrate if there are life-changing experiences. We work on our relationship with God because this community is more than a social club.
I ask the same question to all of you. How the church changed your life? I want all of us to go deep in answering the question. Let us find out our deep longing – why we care, why we bother getting up early, get dressed, and come here on Sunday morning even if it requires some kind of sacrifice. We cannot hide our needs. They come first.
We praise and admire saints: those who so unselfishly provide for others, those who risk their lives for the benefit of the whole humanity. They don’t necessarily put the need of others before theirs. Rather, they don’t differentiate other people’s needs and theirs. They see a greater need that we all share – a need for food, shelter, love, understanding, compassion, peace. They cannot help but help themselves by helping others, because there is no my need and your need, but only our needs.
Jesus said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Jesus identified himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, strangers, and the lonely. He saw his need in the need of others. That came from his own experiences. He was hungry and somebody gave him food. He was thirsty and someone gave him something to drink. He was a stranger and somebody welcomed him. He was lonely and someone comforted him. It all began with his needs. At some point in our lives we were hungry and somebody fed us. We were thirsty and someone gave us something to drink. We were lonely and strangers and somebody welcomed us. It all begins with our needs.