As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Hope where it’s needed most, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 27, 2018. The Reading was Luke 10:25-37.
Elizabeth Ballard of Chesapeake, Virginia, tells the story of a school teacher named Miss Jean Thompson.
Miss Thompson would greet her new students every September with the same words: “Boys and girls, I love you all the same. I have no favourites.” Of course, she wasn’t being completely truthful. Teachers do have favourites and what’s worse, they sometimes have students they just don’t like.
Teddy Stallard was one of these. A boy that Miss Thompson just didn’t like. And for good reason. He was a sullen boy who sat slouched in his seat with his head down. When she spoke to him he always answered in monosyllables of “yes” and “no.” His clothes were musty and his hair unkempt. He was an unattractive boy in just about every way. Whenever she marked Teddy’s papers, she got a certain perverse delight in putting big X’s next to the wrong answers. And when she put the “F” at the top of his papers, she always did it with a flair.
She should have known better, of course. You see, Teachers have records, and she had records on Teddy. His records read:
First grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude, but poor home situation.
Second grade: Teddy is a good boy, but he is too serious for a second grader. His mother is terminally ill.
Third grade: Teddy is becoming withdrawn and detached. His mother died this year. His father shows no interest.
Fourth grade: Teddy is a troubled child. He needs help.
Our world desperately needs hope
We’ll come back to Teddy and Miss Thompson later. But it’s obvious that Teddy has had a tough life. In fourth grade, and has lost his mother following what seems to be a prolonged illness. His father isn’t a great father figure, and isn’t investing in Teddy.
Miss Thompson’s notes say that Teddy needs help – but she could just have easily have written “Teddy needs hope”
Hope of course is part of the major themes of our Red Shield Appeal, with our slogan to bring “hope where it’s needed most” our rallying call this year. And it’s not hard to see how desperate we are in need of hope.
This week the Salvation Army released their Economic and Social Impact survey, which among other things found:
- Newstart – $40/day – only $17 after accommodation expenses.
- Asylum Seekers kicked off benefits
- 74% of households experienced food insecurity with 61% regularly going without meals
- 81% of respondents and more than 90% of households with children are experiencing extreme housing stress, where they pay more than half their income on housing.
- 43% reported they had very limited social connections and feel isolated most of the time, with 54% reporting they were unable to seek support from friends and family in a time of crisis.
Through all of this, it seems easy to see how you could lose hope. If you were going through something like this, you might feel just like Teddy – be sullen and slouched, not wanting to look at anyone, not wanting to say much so that you don’t offend, recognising that your unkempt looks most likely already offend.
There are many different ways we can bring hope
There is something we can do though – and even though she didn’t realise it, there was something that Miss Thompson did do.
It was Christmas time, and the children brought presents to Miss Thompson and piled them on her desk. They crowded around to watch her open them. All the presents were wrapped in brightly coloured paper, except for Teddy’s present. His was wrapped in brown paper, and held together with Scotch tape. But to tell the truth, she was surprised that he even brought a present.
When she tore open the paper, out fell a rhinestone bracelet with most of the stones missing and an almost-empty bottle of cheap perfume. The other children giggled at the shabby gifts, but Miss Thompson had enough sense to snap on the bracelet and take some perfume out of the almost-empty bottle and put it on her wrist. Holding her wrist up tot he other children she said, “Isn’t it lovely?” The other children, taking their cue from the teacher, all agreed.
At the end of the day, when all the other children had left, Teddy came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Thompson… All day today you smelled just like my mother used to smell. That’s her bracelet you’re wearing. It looks very nice on you… I’m really glad you like my presents.” After he left, she got down on her knees and buried her head in her hands and cried and cried and cried, and she asked God to forgive her.
The next day, when the Children came to class, they had a new teacher. It was still Miss Thompson, but she was a new teacher. She cared in ways that the old teacher didn’t. She reached out in ways that the old teacher didn’t. She reached out to all the children, but especially to Teddy. She nurtured them and encouraged them and tutored them when they needed extra help. By the end of that school year, Teddy had caught up with a lot of children. He was even ahead of some.
Through that small act, Miss Thompson brought hope to Teddy’s life. Through changing her ways, she brought hope to the rest of the class.
In our reading today, we saw that there were many ways in which we can bring hope. The Samaritan is the first one to bring hope to the man who had been attacked. He takes pity on him, and goes and bandages his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them to help them heal. And at that, he could have moved on, and waited for someone else to take care of him and take him back to his home town.
But he puts him on his own animal, takes him to an inn, and takes care of him, until he can stay no longer. Fair enough, we’ve all got places we’ve got to be. He’s already gone far beyond what would have been expected. That’s fine right?
Nope, he goes even further. The Samaritan gives the innkeeper 2 days wages, and asks him to take care of him, and if he spends more than that, then the Samaritan would repay him on his return.
And now it is the innkeeper’s turn to bring this man hope, by treating the money that was left in his care with respect, doing what was expected, but also doing it responsibly and not telling the Samaritan that he had spent 4 denarii, when in fact the 2 denarii was enough to get the man well.
Whether you’re the person providing the first aid when someone is in need, whether you’re transporting them to a safe place, or whether you’re responsible for the money that has been donated, we all have a role to play in bringing hope.
Hope will transform Australia one life at a time
When that hope is provided, it has the ability to transform lives.
Teddy eventually moved away, and Miss Thompson didn’t hear from him for a long time. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, came a note:
Dear Miss Thompson, I’m graduating from high school. I wanted you to be the first to know. Love, Teddy Stallard.
There was no address. But, four years later, there was another short note, and it read:
Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m second in my class. The university has not been easy, but I really liked it. Love, Teddy Stallard.
And four years later, there was still another note:
Dear Miss Thompson,
As of today, I am Theodore J. Stallard, MD! How about that! I wanted you to be the first to know.
I’m going to be married, the 27th July to be exact. I want you to come and I want you to sit where my mother would have sat. You’re the only family I have now. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard.
And of course, she went. And she sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat… because she deserved to be there. She was a teacher who had done something great for the Kingdom of God, and she deserved her reward. She had brought hope to Teddy’s life – and that hope transformed his life.
Hope is transformative. When we hope in something outside of ourselves, it gives us something to work towards, something to aim at, a direction and a purpose. Because Miss Thompson cared for Teddy, Teddy had the confidence to hope for something better.
Hope, where it is needed most. Because hope can transform lives.
That’s why we raise money for our Red Shield Appeal, because we know that when we bring hope to where it’s needed most, that lives are transformed. And even if it’s just one life at a time, we will transform Australia, one life at a time, with the love – and the hope – of Jesus.
Go and Bring Hope where it’s needed most
So as we head out today, may we go and bring hope. Whether that’s out collecting, whether that’s to our families, whether that is to yourself – may we be filled with the love of Jesus that brings hope and transforms lives.