Baseball - John Nedeau

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His Name Was Peter.

His name was Peter. Peter was Intelligent. The picture here is of him on his school's drafting team. He was the kind of kid who would not stand out in a crowd. Had a commodore 64, played dungeons and dragons, liked shooting hoops, and throwing a baseball, but never played organized sports. During high school, life seemed to change for Peter and he seemed to focus more on grades. He turned inward, but there were moments you could draw him out and get him to talk for a moment.
Peter was in my youth group. I wish I could tell you that he and I were good friends, I regret that I did not know him better, but we were not. We casually talked at church, and he occasionally was at youth group activities, but for whatever reason, he did not attend youth group events as often as the rest of us in the group did.
We graduated High School the same year and while many of us left Daytona Beach for Lipscomb University, he headed off to Texas for school. Something happened during his first semester, no one knows exactly what but, it shook him enough that he wanted to return home. His parents told him to stay and the next day he took his life.
Now, I am not trying to blame myself for what happened, but there is a weight I carry to this day. Could I have done more? Could I have been more open? Tried to connect better? Been someone he knew he could have called for a listening ear.
This weight has shaped me and given me a concern for the outliers, those who do not quite fit in. Those we might call outcasts. Those who by either their own choice or society's doing, do not fit in. Most of those people are dealing with something, some struggle or pressure they are under.
They struggle with:
Abuse that has been done to them.
Financial difficulties that are leading them to unbearable stress.
Social anxieties.
Pressure placed on them by others to conform to something they are not.
Unplanned pregnancies.
Failing health or devastating illness.
Some who have never really felt love.
A sin they want to leave behind but cannot figure out how that is done.
Every Sunday morning these people sneak through the door of our church, while we are catching up on how each other’s week has been. They do not want to initiate anything, they are too scared of rejection, but inwardly they are hoping someone will reach out to them. Hoping they might make a connection and many of them leave without a genuine connection being made.
Here is the tension I want us to wrestle with this morning. In the after mash of COVID, where so many of us have lost a sense of community, why do we wait until it is too late to step forward with arms wide open? Why do we wait for people to reach out to us before we reach for them? I want to challenge us today to lean into creating community that will heal and grow everyone involved.

His Name Was Jesus.

Jesus had a different way of dealing with the outcast.
In fact when asked in Matthew 9 why He ate with the outcasts, his response was:
Matthew 9:12–13 NIV
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus Himself showed mercy to the outcast. Jesus called them to connect to Him.
You may have a heard of a few of them:
The Leper, where everyone else turned and ran away, Jesus reached out and touched him.
The man at the pool, who had no one to help him to the water, who was “unclean” Jesus helped restore His legs by taking a moment to care.
The sinful woman who came to anoint his feet with perfume and her hair, this woman who was most likely a prostitute, Jesus showed love and mercy.
The woman at the well, who came out in the heat of the day, when no one else was around so that she did not have to deal with their ridicule. Jesus shared with her the truth, in love, and made her his first evangelist to the Samaritans.
I could spend this lesson listing how Jesus made the first moves to help people feel loved and cared for in a world that made them feel like outcasts.
I want us to know today that Jesus calls us to love the outcast and reach out to them.
We will see lives change when we show people Jesus and our care and concern for them.
So, this morning, I want us to look at two back-to-back stories in Luke that can help us see how we can be like Jesus to those who are feeling like outcasts.
Luke 18:35–43 NIV
As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Here we have a man who people walked by most days. Maybe occasionally, the would toss him a few coins. He most likely had someone who saw him to this spot and to home, but we are given the impression that for the most part he was unseen by the masses. Mark’s gospel tells us the name of the blind man, Bartimaeus, but Luke here does not reveal his name. I think the reason for that is that for Luke it sets the stage for how unimportant this man was to the crowd.
But on this day, a man who looked over by the back of the crowd, who found out Jesus was near began to yell out to Him and people told him to be quiet.
I wonder why, people told him to be quiet? By this time Jesus had a reputation of being a healer, so why would they not want to see a miracle. I can only assume that they just simply felt that he was not worth Jesus time. But Jesus felt different. Jesus showed Him mercy.
Will come back and make some observations in a few moments, but for now let’s simply sit with the fact that Jesus saw this one man important when other’s did not. let’s continue reading our next narrative.
Luke 19:1–10 NIV
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
If you spent anytime in Sunday School, you remember this story and maybe a song about this short little tax collector. Maybe as you grew up you learned why he was so hated. Up until this day he was not someone who was very desirable. He worked for the Romans and was viewed as a traitor. As a chief collector he oversaw all tax collectors in that area and was directly responsible for amounts of taxes owed by the people. By his own admission he cheated his people and collected more money from them then he should. He lived a very lavish lifestyle while the people he cheated lived very poor lives.
Most of his fellow Jews would want to see him dead and I imagine on this day as they saw him trying to get close to Jesus they positioned themselves to block his view, probably with a smile of their faces. In the story before we see the man yelling for Jesus, here were are not told he did anything to get Jesus’ attention, but we are told Jesus looks up and see him, telling Zacheus that He is going to spend the day with him.
So here is Jesus going to HIS house to stay. What will people think? Maybe they will think differently of Jesus. Maybe they will rethink following him. But Jesus, saw something different, he saw Zacheus’ heart and that day his heart changed.
Zacheus repented of his sins and promised restitution. We are not told if he gave up his job. If he ever became liked, but we know from this point that he treated people fairly and that he was different.
So, two stories chosen out of many that help give us a glimpse of how Jesus looked past the rough, hardened exteriors of people who many disregarded and saw their hearts.
What can we learn from these two stories that can help us be Jesus to those outcasts we encounter? I have three observations.

Jesus loved the people who were easiest to hate.

You might be able to show compassion to a blind man who has nothing. You might be able to give him money, help him home on occasion. You might even once or twice invite him home for a meal. But I don’t think even today many of us find a tax collector easy to love. But what about others we encounter today? The teenager who is struggling with their sexuality. The husband who gave up his family for what he thought was better on the other side, that person who is riding your last nerve. Those are the people who we choose many times to turn away from? But the question we must ask ourselves is would Jesus turn away from them?
Sometimes, we will encounter people who are not easy to love. Maybe, they live in unsightly places or haven’t bathed in days. Maybe, each time you try to give them advice, they do the opposite and it never goes right for them. All you want to do is get away before the train wreck takes you with it.
Yet, In Jesus we are Ambassadors for Christ, we are called to help the poor, the sick, those who have suffered injustices and even those who can not seem to get anything right.
Jesus, the spotless lamb of God, took our infirmities on to himself, so that we could be saved and sometimes a little conflict and we are ready to give up and walk away.
Listen, if Jesus is never ready to walk away from you and I, you and I should not walk away from those whom God has placed into your lived to help.
Does that mean we let them bring us down? No. But it means we need to walk with them as they move forward so they can walk on their own.

Jesus shows dignity to the disrespected.

Did you know there was a difference in these words? There is a very distinct difference.
Look at this graphic with me. See, dignity is given. Respect is earned. How does Jesus do this?
Romans 5:8 NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
See, this verse shows us that God did not wait for me to earn my salvation. He gave it freely to me. He said, here know that you are worth my most precious part, my son. I will give Him in place of you so that you may live free. That is dignity.
World War I, brought with it new warfare and with it new horrors. Many men came back disfigured. The psychological trauma enough was devastating to them and isolated them from others.
Anna Coleman Watts Ladd was an American sculptor in Manchester, Massachusetts, who devoted her time and skills throughout World War I to designing prosthetics for soldiers who were disfigured from injuries received in combat.
This is some of here work.
How do we show dignity to the disrespected, to those in need, to those who are hurting? In whatever way Jesus has blessed you to do it.
You might need to be a listening ear.
You might be in the position to give warm meal.
You might be able to provide a ride.
You might need to mentor someone through a crisis.
You might just need to show compassion.
God has designed you in and given you gifts. We must simply be intentional in allowing God to use us.

Jesus blessed those who could offer Him nothing in return.

Sometimes, we have to get out of our own way and realize that not all relationships in our lives will be beneficially mutual.
When God calls us to help, we should simply help. We should not be asking, “What’s in it for me?”
1 John 4:19 NIV
We love because he first loved us.
God wanted nothing in return but to have a relationship with us, not one that was beneficially mutual for God needs nothing from us, what if we made the choice to “love first” in all of our encounters. We live in a world of pain and hurt, but what if we chose to love first and forgive often. This is the actions of the God we serve and He calls us to do the same.
I want to ask Addison Barber to join me on stage. I have know Addision for a long time. I have told all of you that I have suffered from depression for many years. During one of my darkest nights, God brought Addison in to my life. I had lost my job as a youth minister. I was lost. I had forgotten who I was and had lost my purpose. I have always loved children, probably evident by the fact that Silas is attached to my me most Sundays and Wednesdays, but before Silas I had the children in our churches children’s church. Jenny volunteered with me for two years, because I found joy in spending time with kids. We are not supposed to say we had favorites, but Addision was mine. Her sweet smile, her excitement to see me, he telling me she love me, when I felt rejected helped me through a very dark time.
This is one of the gifts that Addision gave me that I have kept to this day. If it a small picture she colored for me that hangs on my toolbox at work. It is a constant reminder to me of God’s love showed to me through Addision and I do not know if you know how much you helped me, but this morning I want tell you thank you!
I know that if God can use a little girl who had no idea how what she was doing was impacting a man who felt like he was wondering aimlessly, I know God can use you and I to help make the outcast feel like they are home.
How does it begin? How are lives changed?lives change when we show people Jesus and our care and concern for them.
What do we need to do?
Become aware. Look everywhere for people who are hurting.
Show love. God calls us to be His ambassadors and God is love. So, let people see His love in you.
Show people dignity in the way you interact with them.
Act first! Don’t wait around for people, but seek them out. They will let you know if they are not interested, but don’t let a potential opportunity to show Jesus slip through your fingers.
Become Aware!
Show Love!
Show people dignity!
Act First!
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