Sunday October 19, 2003 | Sandra Unger
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Through the touching stories that Sandra relayed, we can see that Christ truly is to be found among the “least of these.” Most of us are able to hide our pain beneath the faÃ§ade of nice clothes, stable living situations, good friends and family support, but do we understand that we too are the least? We must never forget that we are all, always, desperately in need of God.
For those who have been around WHC for a while, Sandra Unger was a familiar and welcome face! She helped us catch the vision for small groups and building community here at Woodland Hills while we were still a highly transient congregation. She shared testimony about what it means to seek Jesus and find him. We always find him with those who are broken and know it.
Being broken, and aware of our brokenness is to recognize our own spiritually desperate state. Spiritual desperation gets expressed in many ways. Some of them quite strange! Sandra pointed out several examples of misguided searches for the “transcendence” that we seek. [“Transcendence” indicates something greater than ourselves by which we establish meaning for our lives.] People seek meaning in strangely shaped objects, like trees, or food, or even an irregularity in the bumper of a car! People make pilgrimages to witness strange phenomena, hoping for some sort of spiritual “fix” or “high” that may give them some sense of purpose for a while. From the outside, it is clear that there is something missing, something broken in the person who desperately seeks in this way. We see this and may laugh, or mock or even feel sorry, but if we look deeper within ourselves, we would see that we too are desperate and broken in this way. We too need something transcendent to give our lives meaning. The danger is in thinking “they,” the ones who seek in obvious ways, like chasing a “spiritual apparition,” are the really desperate ones. The danger is in thinking that they, the ones who obviously are in need, “they” are the ones who really need God and our help. Do we hold ourselves out, at arms length at least, away from close association with “them”? Is our true state so much better?
Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavily laden…” (Matt. 11:28). It is those who are in this state of awareness of their need of God that Christ invites “Come. Come to me.” Through the touching stories that Sandra relayed, we can see that Christ truly is to be found amongst the “least of these,” but do we understand that we too are truly among the least? That was the challenge. There is more similarity than difference so far as God is concerned.
When people are in desperate poverty, it is no secret that they are in serious need. There is no question that one of the responsibilities of the church is to redistribute resources to alleviate this. But people experiencing poverty are in need not only of the basic necessities of physical life, they are in need spiritually as well. Their inability to mask their physical situations allows the true state of their hearts to show transparently. We, on the other hand, are mostly the “spiffy” folks in this church aren’t we? We are able to hide our pain deep beneath the façade of nice clothes, stable living situations, good friends and family support. We are “okay,” are we not? Isn’t that what separates us from “the poor” and the “least of these?” Sandra’s challenge shot straight to the heart of this deception. When Sandra went into the “5 mile” area of Detroit, she gave the people there some hope that some relief might be possible for them. The people where desperate enough to come running. They came with no hint of pride left, or dignity to prevent them from receiving what they obviously lacked. This profound awareness of need and the necessary dependence on another puts people like this at a spiritual advantage. It is no surprise to many of them that they need God! But we who convince ourselves that things are okay, much better than they were, or might be for others, we are in serious danger of deceiving ourselves. We must never forget that we are all, always, desperately in need of God.