Monday, June 2, 2014

“When No One Else Cares . . .” (I Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11)

Life is pretty expansive.  Life is huge.  By that I mean that it has a whole lot going on . . . probably more than any of us can keep up with when added to our own busy lives.  There is probably a whole lot more to life than most of us are even aware of . . . it is huge!

In a recent issue of the Billings Gazette I saw that there were several incidents of people being tried for their fourth, fifth, and even tenth DUIs in the local courts.  I saw an article about the growing problem of homelessness and public intoxication in Billings . . . already up to the previous year’s numbers and we haven’t even reached the half-way point in this year.  I saw at least two articles about parents abusing their children.  Saw an article about the mess that health care is in for those who are poor . . . for those on reservations . . . for those who are in the veterans system.  I read an article about someone losing their house to a fire. 

And, that was just in Billings!

Add to that stories about war in the Middle East and other locations around the world.  Throw in the constant turmoil found in a lot of third world nations.  Sprinkle in the situation with the kidnapped school girls in Africa.  Mix in the natural disasters that pop up and create havoc in the world.  Plus the constant reminders of those people who are poor, hungry, and homeless around the world.  Life is huge . . .

. . . and, who really has the time to care?

Who has the time to care when there are our own lives to live.  We all live busy lives.  We work.  We pay bills.  We take care of our property.  We keep up with our families and friends.  We have hobbies and things that we like to do.  We support groups and organizations.  We work some more.  We support our community.  We support our church.  We support the local school, library, and community center.  And, we work some more.

We have our own problems and issues that we are attempting to take care of.  We are getting older.  Our bodies are changing and aging and protesting what we once used to do.  We have older parents . . . children with growing families . . . and, they all vie for our time and attention.

Then throw in Mother Nature . . . Mother Nature who never seems to want to play by our rules, but her own.  When we want rain, we get drought.  When we want dry, we get rain.  We want a nice, slow, steady snow melt . . . we get a week of way above average temperatures that accelerates the snow melt to the point that there is talk about flooding.

Yes, our lives are big, too!  Our lives are busy.  And, in the end, who really cares?  Who has the time to care?  It feels like no one.

Do we really care about what is happening in Billings . . . probably not because Billings is where we run in, take care of our business, and get the heck out.  Do we really care about the way that the world is playing out . . . probably not because all that stuff is out there . . . it isn’t that we are not aware of it, but it is not really effecting our lives that much here.  It is difficult to care for things and people who are not intimately involved in our sphere of life . . . pretty “much out of sight, out of mind.”  So, who cares!

That is the question that is being posed in the early church as the followers of Jesus begin making their presence known in the world in which they are living.  That is the question being asked as these followers of Jesus begin to live what Jesus spoke, taught, and exemplified in his own life.  That is a the question that these followers are concerned with as they attempt to do what they feel God is calling them to do and it is making everyone else angry.  Not only angry, but vindictive and mean . . . and, violent.  They want to know . . . who cares about us?  Who cares about what we are trying to do?  Who cares?

Who cares because it sure doesn’t feel like anyone does.  Actually, it feels as if the opposite is true . . . the followers are ridiculed . . . they are insulted . . . they are persecuted . . . they are physically attacked . . . they are thrown into prison . . . and, some are even killed.  Through it all, no one comes to their aid . . . no one comes to their defense . . . no one cares what is happening to these people.  They want to know, who cares?

God cares.

That is what the writer tells these followers of Jesus . . . God cares.  The writer writes: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  God cares and God will take care of you.  Because God cares, suggests the writer, do not give up hope . . . do not give up the Way of Jesus . . . continue to do the will of God despite no one else caring . . . despite persecution . . . despite hardship.  God cares.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that from time to time in our lives we throw little pity parties for ourselves.  That there are times in our lives when we wonder whether or not anyone really even knows whether or not we even exist much less care about us.  Times in our lives where we echo the question of “who cares?”  As I stated earlier, life is huge . . . life is bigger than most of us can handle, and that includes our own lives. 

Life is huge . . . and, life is difficult.  Most us have probably earned more than one advanced degree from the University of Hard Knocks.  Yet, God never said that it would be easy . . . never promised that it would be easy.  Neither did Jesus make such a promise when asking us to follow him and his ways in our lives.  No, in fact, Jesus said that it would be tough . . . he told us to pick up our crosses and follow him.  The writer of our reading this morning reiterates this when writing: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”  Life is huge . . . and, life is tough.

But, God cares.  God cares through a constant presence that surrounds us like the air that we breathe.  God cares by providing us with love and grace that frees us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and live life in his ways.  God takes care of us . . . through the good times and through the difficult times.  This we are promised because God cares . . . we are not alone.  Because God cares, suggests the writer, we should care too.

We should care about doing God’s will.  We should care about God’s family . . . here, there, and everywhere.  We should care about loving others . . . taking care of others . . . walking with others whether they are our next door neighbor or some stranger on the other side of the world.  We should care, because God cares.
Life might be bigger than any of us can handle.  Life might be a whole more difficult than we expected.  Life can be pretty overwhelming . . . but, we are never forgotten . . . we are never alone.  God cares about us . . . always cares about us . . . when it seems as if no one else in the world does.  In that caring we find the strength to carry on for another day . . . to walk in the footsteps of Jesus to love and care.  We just need to keep reminding ourselves . . .

When no one else seems to care . . . God cares!  There is blessing in that knowledge.  Amen.

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