Last week we talked about the grace of God and how God has freely lavished his grace upon us. We did not need to do anything to earn God’s grace, and in the reformed tradition we have come to understand that it is by grace alone that we are saved. In other words, we are not saved by what we do. Of course, what we do is still important. What we do in our day to day lives actually matters to Jesus. For, as Jesus will tell us in this morning’s parable of the sheep and the goats, what we do for others, we are actually doing for him. So, let us listen to Jesus as he tells us this story, which is found in the 25th chapter of Matthew, beginning at the 31st verse. Listen now for the Word of God...
When Allison Thompson went out to retrieve her morning paper, she glanced over at the house across the street to see if he had gotten home the night before. Allison didn’t know what to make of this new neighbor who had moved in about three months before. He kept very much to himself. He talked to no one and hardly even gave a nod when someone yelled “hello” in his direction. Allison had heard that the man’s name was Donald Krebs; but, that was all she knew, except that he never seemed to want to stay at home. Every morning he left around 8:00 and returned later in the afternoon. Allison assumed that he was going to work. But, then every night around 7:00 he would go out again, and wouldn’t get home till sometime after Allison went to bed. It all seemed so strange and mysterious to Allison, who looking at her watched realized that it was 8:30. She also realized that Mr. Krebs car was still in the driveway.
“I guess Mr. Krebs is staying home today,” Allison whispered to no one in particular. “Maybe I will try to be neighborly again.” Allison had tried once before to do something nice. Just after Donald moved in, she took him a batch of her home made chocolate chip cookies. He thanked her but then left her standing on the front porch. He didn’t even invite her in. And, he certainly never returned the favor. Nevertheless, Allison went inside and retrieved a loaf of Zucchini bread which she had baked the day before.
“This will be your last chance Mr. Krebs,” she said to herself as she was walking across the street. As she got closer to Donald’s car, she had the feeling that something wasn’t right. It looked as though someone was in his car; but, from behind she couldn’t tell who it was. Slowly Allison approached the driver’s side door and tapped on the window. The person inside, slumped over the steering wheel, didn’t move.
Allison knocked on the window even louder. “Mr. Krebs, is that you?” Again there was no movement. Allison didn’t know what to do. She reached down and pulled on the handle. The door was unlocked. She opened the door and was nearly knocked off her feet by the smell of alcohol. Once she was able to blink away the tears, Allison started reaching in to shake the person’s shoulder; but, then she stopped. “What if he is dead,” she thought to herself. She didn’t want to touch a dead body. That’s when she heard it.
“Groan.” He was alive. That much was good. She could handle this.
“Mr. Krebs, are you all right.” Allison took a guess that it was him. Still there was no response. She reached out and put her hand on his forehead to try and push him back in the seat. He was burning up. She could feel the heat even before her hand touched his skin. “Mr. Krebs, we need to get you inside.”
“Well, at least he was conscious,” Allison thought to herself. “Mr. Krebs, I’m going to help you get inside; but, I need you to help me.”
“Go away!” Allison was determined to help this man, even if it killed him. She reached out and this time, grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back towards the seat. His head fell back with a thump. Then she reached down and grabbed his legs and pulled them out of the car. Donald’s whole body turned in the seat just before he fell back across the center console.
“What are you doing?”
“Mr. Krebs, I’m trying to help you.”
“Go away! Leave me alone!” “I am not going to leave you alone, now give me your hand.” Allison reached into the car, grabbed the keys out of the ignition; and, then began pulling at Donald’s arm. Slowly he came up off the center console only to slump over into his own lap. “Mr. Krebs, I’m going to put your arm around my shoulder and on the count of three, I want you to try and stand up. Ready? One, two, three...Oh my gosh,” Allison said out loud as Donald struggled to his feet. She kept her back against the side of the car to brace herself. “It’s a good thing you not a big man, Mr. Krebs.” It still took every ounce of strength that Allison had. “Alright Mr. Krebs, we are going to walk to you front door. On the count of three. Ready? One, two, three...” It wasn’t the prettiest walk, more like a slow shuffle. But, after a few agonizing minutes, a great deal of groaning, and a couple of stops along the way, they finally made it to the front door. After a few seconds of rest, Allison unlocked the door and they started out on the next leg of their journey, in search of Donald’s bedroom. Thankfully, all the houses in the neighborhood had pretty much the same floor plan and there were no stairs. So, when they got to the master bedroom, Allison sort of let Donald flop down on the bed. She sat down on a chair near by to catch her breath. A few minutes later, she stood up. Allison had nursed her share of sick children back to health. So, she knew what needed to done. “Mr. Krebs, I’ll be back,” she said as she walked out the door.” Donald, still laying where he landed, gave no response.
Allison walked into the kitchen to see what Donald had to eat, only to discover that eating was not a high priority. Drinking, however, was, as evidenced by the many bottles of alcohol that she found. So, Allison made a quick list of the things that she needed, left the house with Donald’s keys, picked up the zucchini bread that was still laying on the drive way, and a few moments later, got into her car and headed for the store.
It was about forty-five minutes later when Allison returned, placed the groceries on the counter, the milk in the refrigerator and then went to check on Donald. She entered his bedroom armed with a dose of Tylenol. Donald, for his part had managed to crawl under the covers. Allison went over and began to shake his shoulder. “Mr. Krebs, I need you to wake up for me.”
“Mr. Krebs, I want you to open you mouth. I want you to drink this Tylenol.”
“Leave me alone!” Allison knew what to do with stubborn children. She reached out and pinched Donald’s nose. It did the trick. A few seconds later, his mouth flew open as he gasped for a breath. Allison poured the medicine in. (Coughing fit) “Here, drink some water,” she said as she lifted up the back of his head so that he could drink. A couple of swallows and then Donald flopped back down into the pillow.
“Stay right here,” said Allison, I am going to go and make you some soup. Either Donald didn’t hear her, or he chose to ignore her. Though, it didn’t matter, she was still going to help him. She want back into the kitchen to make his soup. While the soup was heating up, she kept glancing at the bottles of alcohol that seemed to be everywhere. “You know, Mr. Krebs, life would be much better for you if you didn’t have so much of this stuff,” Allison said out loud. She picked up a bottle. It was bourbon. She unscrewed the cap and with a quick glance around her started pouring it down the sink. “That’s better,” Allison, “but I think we can do more.” So, she picked up two more bottles and proceeded to empty them into the sink. Twenty minutes later, she had emptied every bottle that she could find. She knew there were probably more hidden somewhere in the house. After all, she had had an alcoholic uncle whose was very creative with hiding his addiction. The soup was ready and so Allison took a bowl back to Donald’s bed room. She pulled up a chair and sat by the bed, with the bowl of soup resting on the night stand.
“Mr. Krebs, it’s time to eat.”
“Now let’s open up,” she said as she brought a spoon full of soup to his lips. Donald didn’t move. “Mr. Krebs do you want me to pinch your nose again?” Slowly he opened his mouth and slowly she poured in the soup.
“You’re a mean woman,” he said to her.
“Yes, I know, now let’s open up again.” Reluctantly Donald cooperated, and after several minutes the bowl was empty. “Now, why don’t you get some sleep. I’ll be back to check on you later.” Without a word, Donald rolled over on his pillows while Allison walked out of the room.
Later that afternoon, Allison returned to Donald’s house. A quick check told her that he was still sleeping. So, she went to the kitchen to make him some dinner. It was another bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side. When it was ready, she carried the food back to his room, and took up her post by his bed.
“Mr. Krebs, wake up, it’s time to eat.”
“Go away! Leave me alone!”
“Come on now, eat it while it is still hot,” Allison said as she turned on the lamp that sat on the night stand.
“Turn that thing off. Are you trying to kill me.” “No, Mr. Krebs, I am trying to help you. Now let’s take a bite.” She held up the sandwich to his lips. “If you want to help me, get me a drink. I need a drink.” “I’m sorry, Mr. Krebs, but it is all gone.” “What are you talking about?” “Well, all those bottles were cluttering up your counter, so when I was tidying up, I had to throw them out.” “You did what,” Donald yelled as he sat straight up in bed. But, it was too much. He immediately grabbed his head as the room began rocking back and forth. Feeling too lightheaded to stay up, Donald collapsed back down into the pillows. “Looks to me like you caught more than just a hangover last night Mr. Krebs. Is that what you do when you go out every night? Get drunk.” “Shut up and leave me alone.” “Now that is no way to talk to someone who is trying to help you.” “I don’t want your help.” “Sure you do. Now take a bite.” Donald realized that he was too weak to argue and that he really was hungry and so once again he grudgingly did what he was told. When he was finished, Allison got up and left. A few minutes later she came back. “Here is some more Tylenol.” She handed the dose to Donald, who remembering what happened last time she gave him medicine, reached out and took it. “By the way,” Allison said, “your boss called for you this morning. I told him that I was a neighbor and that you were sick. He said to call him the moment you are feeling better.” Donald closed his eyes without saying a word. “You know, Mr. Krebs, a ‘thank you’ isn’t going to kill you,” Allison said as she turned to walk out of the room. “I’ll be back to check on you later.” It was later that evening when Allison returned to check on Donald. He was still sleep, and so she decided not to wake him. Over the next two days, Allison kept up her regiment of help. She kept asking Donald about his life and why he drank so much. But, he kept up his vigil of silence except to say, “Go away” and “leave me alone”.
On the morning of the third day, after finding him slumped over in the car, Allison found Donald sitting up in bed. “Well, it looks to me like you are feeling better.
“What is this,” Donald said as he picked up a Bible that sat on his night stand. “Oh, I was wondering where I left that. I was reading it last night while you were sleeping. I guess I forgot to take it home with me.” “Well, you can take it home now.” “That’s ok, I’ll just leave it here while I’m helping you. You are more than welcome to read some of it yourself now that your strength is returning.” Donald just dropped it back on the night stand. “I hope you will still be feeling better this evening,” Allison said, “because I am going to take you out.” “Where are you taking me?” “Oh, that’s my little surprise.” At 7:00 o’clock that night, Allison showed up to take Donald out, as promised. Donald didn’t know why he had agreed to go with her; but, nevertheless, he was ready. After about a ten minute drive, Allison pulled into the parking lot of Farmville Presbyterian Church.
“What are we doing here? I do not want to go to church.”
“That’s fine,” said Allison, “because we are not here to worship. We are here for you.” “What do you mean?” “There is an AA group that meets here. The way I see it is, I have given you all the help that I can give you. They can give you more. Now, you don’t want to talk with me. That’s fine; but, maybe inside you can find someone with whom you can talk.” “And, if I refuse to go in.” “Then you are going to have a very long walk back to your house.” “You really are a mean woman.” “Yes, I know. I will be back in two hours to pick you up and take you home.” Donald got out of the car and watched Allison leave. He thought about simply trying to make that walk home. Instead he turned back to the church and went inside. Over the next several months, Allison didn’t see very much of Donald. He still left for work and came home at the same times, and several nights a week, he went out, though he was not staying out as late as usual. So, Allison was somewhat surprise one Saturday morning, when she answered the knock at her door and saw that it was Donald. “Oh, Mr. Krebs, please come in.” “Thank you. I think that after all that we have been through you can call me Donald.” Allison just smiled and nodded her head. “I wanted to stop by and give this back to you,” Donald said holding out the Bible that was left on his night stand. “Oh, I’ve forgotten about that. You know, I have another one, so you are more than welcome to keep it.” “Thank you,” said Donald, “I will. By the way, I wanted to thank you for everything that you have done for me. I know I wasn’t very nice to you.” “I was just glad that I could help. I haven’t seen you around much.” “Well, between work and AA meetings, there isn’t time for much else.” “Oh, I’m glad to hear that you are going.” “Yea, I’ve learned over these past few months that it helps to talk.” “Well, if you would like to come in and have some coffee,” said Allison, “I would be glad to listen.” “Actually, I would like that very much.” Allison led Donald into the kitchen and poured him a cup of coffee. “You know, I found something in this Bible that reminded me of you,” Donald said.
“Oh really, what was that.”
Donald opened up the Bible and began to read, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me. “Well,” Allison said, looking down at her shoes. “You weren’t really that sick.” “Maybe not, but I was in prison. Thank you.”