Christ in the Least of These

When I was in first and second grade, my teacher always read a story to us after lunch….

(To the kids) Do your teachers do this?

(To adults) Did your teachers do this?

Today, I want to share a story from a Russian author, Leo Tolstoy – it’s called, “Where Love Is, God Is” – it’s the story of a man who made and repaired shoes, and his name was Martin. He tried to follow God, and do the right thing, but that isn’t always easy. One night he had a dream in which he heard Jesus saying to him, “Look outside tomorrow, and I will come to you.”

How would you feel if you heard Jesus talking to you and telling you, you would see him tomorrow?

Now Martin lived a basement, and usually all he could see were people’s feet – you know, the shoes we wear can tell a lot about us – do they have holes in them? Are the fancy and expensive? Are they formal or casual – for sports or for going out to a special event?

He knew everyone in town by their shoes….and he could see them from his basement window…

When Martin woke up, he was excited, “Jesus told him he would see him today.”

He had breakfast and went to work, repairing shoes….he saw a man limping down the street and he knew it was Stepanovich, an old soldier, who was so poor, his shoes were tattered…Martin got up and invited Stepanovich to tea, a couple cups of hot tea – like hot chocolate – can warm you up on a cold day….Stepanovich went on his way, warmed in body and spirit – someone cared about him…

Then, he saw a pair of shoes he’d never seen before, and went outside to see a young woman, shivering in the cold, carrying a little baby….he invited her in; her husband was in the army and was stationed far away – she was on her way to stay with a friend who would give her a job….Martin invited her in, gave her some cabbage and potato soup, and brown bread, and sent her off with a coat he owned…..

It was getting late and almost sunset – a woman with a cart full of apples to sell passed by, and then the feet of a young boy….he heard a shout and scuffle, the woman had caught the young boy trying to steal an apple….she was going to report him to the police and despite being just a little older than you – this hungry child might be going to jail….Martin begged the woman to have mercy, and then bought the boy an apple….

That night, as he prepared for bed, Martin was disappointed – he had expected to see Jesus, but Jesus didn’t come….

What do you think happened?

He heard a voice….saying “it is I” and out of corner came Stepanovitch and he smiled….and another voice “it is I” and out stepped the woman with her baby and she smiled and the baby laughed…and he heard a third voice, “It is I” – and then it was the apple lady and the boy and they too disappeared….

Suddenly, Martin realized something….do you know what it was?….it was today’s scripture – I was hungry and you gave me food; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink….

Do think Jesus was talking to Martin?

Do you think Jesus ever talks to you?

Every day God comes to us – in other children, in people who need love, in the new kid in school or the new family in the neighborhood, in the person who looks and acts different than us…..

When we care for them, we give our love to God, and our lives will be filled with joy…

For as you have given to the poor, the stranger, the sad, you have given to God.