When I was in Seminary, one of the areas of church ministry that we studied was evangelism, the means by which we share the story of Jesus with others. I remember coming across this wonderful quote, “Telling others about Jesus is like one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” This is something that we can keep in mind as I begin reading from John’s Gospel, the fourth chapter, beginning at the 7th verse. Listen now for the Word of God.
When Lewis Varney woke up, the first thing on his mind was breakfast, which was usually the first thing on his mind every morning. So, he stood up and began to stretch, wiping the sleep out of his eyes. Then he folded up his newspapers and put them in the old backpack that he carried with him wherever he went. After a quick glance around, he turned and started walking north on Pineridge Road. Lewis knew, even as he looked into the first two trash cans that the pickings were going to be slim. You see, the trash had been picked up the day before, and the cans were still empty. By the time he got to his fourth can, Lewis was about ready to give up. Today was just going to be a hungry day, like it usually was on Tuesday; but, then, he saw something that gave him a little hope. Further up on the sidewalk, about a block and a half away, Lewis saw a man taking a bite out of something that was wrapped up in paper. Then the man gathered up the paper and tossed it into a trash can. By the way the paper flew threw the air and made a thud when it hit the inside of the trash can, Lewis knew that there was still some food left inside. So, after the man walked away, Lewis went up to the can and there in the bottom was the paper that he had seen. It was a fast food wrapper, and when he picked it up and opened it up, Lewis found a breakfast sandwich with only one bite missing. Lewis couldn’t believe his luck. It was still warm in his hands. Lewis couldn’t believe anyone could throw away so much food; still, what the other man didn’t want, Lewis was glad to take. With a quick prayer of thanks, Lewis began eating breakfast; and, boy was it good. When he was finished, Lewis wiped his mouth on his sleeve and then threw the wrapper into the trash can. Of course now he was thirsty; but, that was ok, because he knew where to find some water. Two streets over, on First Avenue, Lewis knelt down in front of the fire hydrant that had been slowly leaking for the past two months. He held his hands cupped under the slow leak until they finally filled up and then he lifted them to his lips and drank. Thank goodness for bureaucracy, Lewis thought. The way things go, I should have water for at least two more years. As he drank his second handful of water, Lewis noticed that there was a man standing not too far away, staring at Lewis. Knowing how it must have looked to be getting water from a fire hydrant, Lewis stood up quickly and said, “I didn’t do anything to the hydrant, it’s been dripping like that for a long time.” “I know you didn’t do anything,” the man said, as he started walking towards Lewis. “I was just wondering if maybe you would like to have something a little better to drink than hydrant water, maybe something to eat that hasn’t partially been eaten by somebody else.” Quickly, Lewis turned and glanced back in the direction that he had come from. Then he turned and with a puzzled look on his face stared at the man who had been talking. “I saw you over on Pineridge,” the man said. “That’s why I thought that maybe you would like to have something a little better to eat. “Sure, I would like to have something better to eat; but, I make do with what I can find.” “Oh, I know you do; but, if you come with me, I will give you some food that will make that other stuff taste like...well...trash.” The man turned and started walking away. Lewis wasn’t sure what to do; but then the man stopped, looked back at Lewis and said, “By the way, my name is Josh.” “I’m Lewis.” “Good to see you Lewis. Follow me.” Lewis was a little unsure; but, he followed after Josh anyway. Though, he kept back a few feet, just in case. They had only been walking for about three blocks, when Josh stopped in front of a plain white door. As hard as he tried, Lewis could not remember ever seeing this door before today. There was no sign on the door, nor any windows around the door. It was simply there, on the side of a large building. As Lewis watched, Josh reached into his pocket and pulled out a shiny gold key. He stuck it into the lock, turned it, and then opened the door. Then Josh took a step back, motioned towards the open door and said, “You are free to go in and eat and drink as much as you want. Even though Lewis hadn’t gotten close enough to see inside, the aroma that came out was heavenly. His mouth couldn’t hold back all of the drool that was beginning to run down his chin. He stomach was doing somersaults, getting itself ready for a feast. Finally, Lewis walked up to the door and looked in, and he simply could not believe what he was seeing. As far as his eyes could see there was nothing but food, large tables piled as high as his head, meats, breads, vegetables, fruits, cheeses and over to the left, desserts. “I really can have some,” Lewis asked? “As much as you want,” replied Josh. “But, I don’t have anything to give you.” “Who said I am asking for anything. I am simply offering it to you, no strings attached.” So, Lewis walked into the room. And even though it was too early in the morning, he walked over to one of the many dessert tables, and right there in the middle was the largest chocolate eclair that Lewis had ever seen, the custard filling was bursting to come out. Lewis picked it up and shoved one end of it in his mouth. Oh, it was soooo good. Never had he tasted anything so wonderful. Then he stuck two fingers inside and scooped out some of the custard and held it up over his mouth, and for a moment, the custard hung there in the air before finally letting go of his fingers and falling into his mouth. After about twenty minutes of stuffing his face, Lewis felt full. He walked over to the door where Josh was still standing and he just threw his arms around Josh. “I can’t even begin to thank you,” Lewis said. “Sounds to me like you just did,” Josh replied. “Besides, it was my pleasure. And, you know, this food will always be here for you anytime you want it.” “You mean, I can come back and eat some more,” Lewis asked? “Anytime, day or night, it will be here waiting for you, as will I.” “And, I don’t have to pay you for it?” “Nope, but, I would ask you to do one thing for me.” “You name it,” Lewis said, “and, I will do it.” “If you know anyone else who is hungry, bring them along; and, they can eat too.” “You mean it?” “I do.” “Anybody?” “Anybody and everybody is welcome. I have more than enough.” Lewis walked out of the door; but, he only got about ten feet when suddenly, he whirled around and looked back. “Your still there,” he said. “Yes, I am,” Josh replied. “Just checking.” And with that, Lewis walked off; and, as he was walking, the first person he thought of was Emily. She had been on the streets almost as long as Lewis had. She had quite a rough go of it, at first. But, Lewis took her under his wing. He showed her how to survived, taught her the best times of day to do her begging, even shared with her some of his prime locations. He even showed her which dumpsters where the best, the ones most likely to have discarded food that was at least edible. As he thought about Emily, Lewis’ started walking a little faster. It took him about a half an hour to find her; but, finally he found her in the dumpster behinds Luigi’s, an Italian restaurant. She was licking some of the previous nights spaghetti sauce off of her fingers. “Emily,” he said, “you have to come with me, quick.” “And, good morning to you too Lewis. Hey have you had breakfast yet, I see a couple of meatballs down here at the bottom. If you don’t take them, I will.” “Forget about the meatballs. Come with me. You are not going to believe what I have found.” “What did you find a couple of dollars that someone dropped?” “No, no, nothing like that. I found a place where you can eat all the food you could ever want.” “Yeah right, and how much does that cost?” “That’s just it. It doesn’t cost anything. It is absolutely free. Don’t look at me like that, I am telling you the truth. I met this man this morning. His name was Josh and he said, ‘Follow me.’ So, I did and then he unlocked this door and inside this huge room was all this food. I stuffed myself until I couldn’t eat anymore. Then he said, I could come back anytime, that the food would be there, and so would he. He said all he wanted me to do was invite anybody else who was hungry. So, I thought about you. Now, come on, get out of that dumpster and come with me.” “Alright, alright give me a second. I think you have lost your mind; but, I’ve never seen you so passionate about anything before.” It took Emily a couple of minutes to get out of the dumpster and dust herself off. As soon as she was finished, Lewis grabbed her by the hand and both of them started running. Lewis took her up one street and then over two more. Finally, they came around a corner and standing there by the open door was Josh. “See, I told you,” Lewis said, nearly out of breath. “Josh this is Emily. Emily this is Josh.” “Hello Emily, it is nice to see you. I am glad that Lewis told you about me and invited you along.” “Yeah, well, it’s nice to meet you too. Lewis said something about some food, that anyone who was hungry was allowed to come and eat.” “Lewis was absolutely right. Please, come in and help yourself.” Slowly, Emily walked up to the open door and looked inside. Then she turned and looked at Lewis. “You weren’t kidding were you? I’ve never seen so much food.” Then Emily took a few steps into the room. There was so much to choose from that she didn’t know where to start. Finally, she looked over at a table piled high with every shape and texture of bread. Emily walked over and just breathed in the aroma. She picked up a large loaf of bread and noticed that it had already been broken in half. So, she tore off a piece for herself and put it into her mouth. Then she closed her eyes and tears began to stream down her cheeks. She simply could not believe what she was eating. It was as if she was eating life itself. After a few minutes, Emily picked up the remaining broken pieces and carrying them in her arms, she walked back over to Josh. “Thank you Josh for letting me come here and eat.” “You are very welcome Emily, and like I told Lewis, this food will always be here for you anytime you want it.” “Thank you. I know you told Lewis that he could invite other hungry people to come and eat as well. So, can I do that too? Can I invite others who are hungry?” “Of course, you can. Everyone is welcome to my table.” Emily, turned because she was going to put the broken pieces of bread back on the table where she found them; but, then she looked back at Josh and asked, “Can I take this with me to give to my friends when I invite them?” “I think that is a wonderful idea.” So, Emily, walked back out of the open door and began looking for some friends with whom she could share her broken pieces of bread.
Pastor Jim's past sermons:
John 4:7-15, 27-30, 39-42
Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.