Saturday, January 4, 2014
Cheri and I recently visited several wonderful Outreach Committee volunteers and homeless guests who came to St. Simon's Episcopal Church here in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Our church provides a "Cold Night" shelter to men, woman and children who are homeless in our area. I was especially struck by the wide range of ages and special needs of those who came to us for food, shelter and hospitality. As always, I tend to leave this ministry with so many thoughts and concerns as to how I/we can respond even more throughout the year.
Yesterday, I came across this video (above) which seems to be a simple and effective low cost way to respond to individuals who may find themselves homeless and hungry.
I pray this will be of some help as you seek to discern how God may be leading you to help someone in need.
Here is a printed copy of my 2013 Christmas Eve sermon. Also, you may listen to this sermon by clicking on the following link: Christmas Eve 2013 sermon from The Rev'd Mark L. Fitzhugh
Ben was really big
for a first grader.
He was solid. All boy.
Everybody loved Ben.
He was the gentlest of souls,
and was certainly No bully.
Ben was a friend even to the smallest of kids
at church and school.
At our last church in Connecticut,
his mom and dad were close friends of ours.
Ben was excited about our upcoming Christmas play.
He wanted to be one of the shepherds…
of course, all little boys love to dress up
and be shepherds.
But the trouble is on this particular year,
the lady directing the play
had a larger role in mind for Ben.
He was cast as the innkeeper.
He practiced and practiced,
but became more and more nervous about his lines.
The morning of the play,
everything was going beautifully.
Then came the part where Mary and Joseph
knocked on the door of the inn.
Ben answered the door right on cue
and gave his line.
“What do you want?”
‘We seek lodging. “
“Seek it somewhere else, this inn is filled,” Ben replied,
with just the right touch of gruffness.
“But sir, we have tried everywhere,
we have come a long way, and we are very tired.
Don’t you have a corner
where we can get out of the cold?”
“No. Go away!,” Ben properly commanded.
And this is where it happened…
Ben broke his icy stare and looked at Mary.
And you could tell something happened to him.
There was a long silence.
The audience became nervous and uneasy.
We thought Ben had forgotten his lines.
So, the prompter whispered., “No, be gone.”
And Ben halfheartedly repeated.
Then Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary
and they began to move off the stage.
Ben couldn’t stand it any longer,
he could never be this cruel.
So, with big tears welling up in his eyes
he gave a performance..
I have never forgotten:
“Wait, Joseph, don’t go!” Ben literally cried out.
“Bring Mary back.
You can have my room, and I’ll sleep in the cold.”
Right after the service,
one grumpy lady came up to me
and said Ben had ruined the whole pageant.
I looked at her and said –
“You’ve got to be kidding me…
you just sang one of the greatest 18th century
English carols ever written by Isaac Watts,
“Joy to the World”….and YOU sang,
“Let every heart prepare him room.”
Isn’t that exactly what Ben learned from this story…
He made room in his heart for Jesus.
How can we, prepare more room in our hearts for God.
God is preparing our hearts.
God challenges us, and our values
and our dreams.
Just as Joseph was challenged
to welcome the child into his home and heart
despite the difficult circumstances.
God challenges us to welcome Christ into our lives
and allow this child to transform our hearts
and homes with his peace and justice.
And so, tonight,
some two thousand years later,
the baby Jesus waits to enter our hearts, once again
just as he did for Mary and Joseph.
Jesus waits patiently to be invited into our life.
So that He can walk along side us, through it all…
the glorious, joyful days,
and those gut wrenching, unimaginable ones, too.
The Word has became flesh and lives
in NewTown, CT…Denver, Colorado,
with our men & women serving tonight in Afghanistan,
on an aircraft carrier in Southeast Asia,
in the Emergency Room in Ft Walton Beach.
Tonight we all gather to listen
and remember once again, the greatest story ever told…
“The Birth of the Savior of the World.”
And so as we journey to Bethlehem
let us now return our thanks
and simply say…
“We love you Lord Jesus.
WE LOVE YOU with our whole heart –
just as you have always loved us.
And now, “Look down from that bright sky in heaven
and stay by our side
until morning is Nigh.”