Help! Lent 3 Blog

Lent 3 Blog


March 8, 2018

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Help cuts about as close to the bone of what it means to be human as any subject I can think of. We are, almost by definition and certainly from the beginning of our lives, creatures who require a lot of help. No human newborn stands up on shaky leg to suckle its first meal. Nor can we imagine a fully formed adult who could qualify as human without giving some form of help to another. Such a person, neither helpless nor helpful, would be less than a robot, more soulless than a stone.

–from Help: The Original Human Dilemma, by Garret Keizer (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, ©2004), p 4.


In a story of epic proportions, a winter snowstorm shut down the Indiana Toll Road in the early 1980’s as a college friend was driving a car full of fellow students, myself included, back from Christmas break to Valparaiso University.  We didn’t have much money.  But the driver had a sorority sister nearby.  The car’s hood was filling with stuff (could it have been snow?) that knocked out the heater.  The car’s hood was filling up with stuff (could it have been more snow?) so that the engine was sputtering as we entered the town of same sorority sister, and then pittered out.  To the rescue came the sister’s father.  We clambered in his station wagon, and entered a home that was filled with the smell of pot roast in the oven for Sunday dinner.  I was offered a shot of whiskey, promptly took a nap, and woke to the invitation to sit at table with the family.  Staying overnight, the car was fixed the next morning, and the road back was clear! 


I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the help given.  To me, the hospitality of those strangers has become an unforgettable tale of kindness and generosity. 


In an equally epic story, in 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel and the Israelites faced adversaries called the Philistines (look it up if you want the gory details).  In a surprising turn of events, God intervened to save the day.  And Samuel placed a marker to commemorate that saving grace in the form of a stone, and named it Ebenezer, which means “our God helps.”


One of Lent’s spiritual practices is good works, or giving, works of love, or in old-fashioned language, “acts of charity.”  It can mean donating money toward a charitable organization, but I think a richer Lenten response is simply to be available to give help where it is needed.


As Bethesda offered its space to 12 homeless men for a week late February, I know that our help was appreciated.  But I also know that in offering our hospitality, we too were moved by the kindness, good heartedness, and humanness of the guys from this ministry.


What stories and experiences of help do you have?  Would you tell me one?


Did you ever wonder what Ebenezer means in this song?  Do you know now?


Pastor Tim Keyl

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