We saw it again this week. When disaster struck and people were in need, instead of running away from the need, people ran toward it. A community raced toward an Elementary School in Moore, OK, and without any training or supervision people organized themselves into rescue teams that literally pulled children from the rubble and passed them along a human chain to a triage area. People who had lost everything reached out and checked on their neighbors offering whatever help they could. No one told people to do this; no one had to explain to them the need or the rewards in helping, no one had to offer them a free meal at the end of the day, people just stopped thinking about themselves and started helping others. They were first responders.
We saw the same thing a few weeks ago in Boston. A bomb explodes and while many people ran for safety and for cover – many others ran directly into the disaster zone. These people didn’t know if there would be more bombs going off, in fact, they had no idea what was happening – they simply ran to help. Without any warning about the unimaginable horror they wound find when they got there and without any medical training people simply ran and began to bandage wounds, lift people to safety and offer words of encouragement and prayers for healing. They were first responders.
Here in Bellefonte we are blessed to have men and women who spend their lives running into dangerous situations every day. Unlike many of those in OK or Boston, these people are trained and they know exactly what to do. Over the course of the last few years we have seen firefighters run into burning buildings to rescue and evacuate people and while those stories always seems to grab our attention, the truth is that there are ambulance drivers who every day step into unknown situations to help and police officers who respond to dangerous situations without knowing the full threat of what they face, and EMT’s who are often the very first people on the scene of an accident and face nightmares we wouldn’t want to even think about. They are first responders.
This weekend we also remember the lives of countless men and women who ran into dangerous situations to help people in need. They ran onto the beaches of Normandy, through the jungles of Vietnam, into the ancient cities of Iraq and across the desolate mountain of Afghanistan and while the landscaped always changed, their goal was the same, they ran to help. With whatever training they had they worked to bring freedom, peace, comfort and security to those in need. In so many ways, the men and women of the military are first responders for hot spots around the world and this weekend is our time to remember them and give thanks for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their very lives.
I don’t know about you, but when I watch the scenes from OK or Boston, I want to be there to help. I want to think that I would be one of those people who would run in and be part of a human chain rescuing people from the rubble of school. I want to be one of those people who wrap children in my arms and carry them to safety. I want to be the person who will cry with those who are standing on the slab that once was their home, or help bandage wounds in the midst of fear and uncertainty. I want to be that kind of hero and my guess is that you do too. In fact, I’ve talked to several people who have felt burdened to go and help in OK, the problem is that there is not much to do there at this moment. If that is who you want to be, if you have watched video this week and said to yourself, I wish I could be there to help – I wish I could be a first responder, well, today is your day. Today is the day we can commit ourselves to being first responders because that is who God calls us to be.
A few weeks ago I was walking one of our newly baptized babies down the aisle and I said that we were all called to be first responders for this child and that idea has not left me. God is calling us to be first responders of faith in our own families, church, community and all over the world. God is calling us to be the first people there to offer help, support, love and faith not just to the babies, but to children, youth, families, seniors, strangers and everyone in need. The question is will we do it?
Now I’m not the one asking that question today, God is because God is a first responder who simply wants us to join him. Think about it, God is a first responder because he doesn’t run away from problems – he runs right into the midst of them to rescue and redeem his children. Psalm 34:17 says the righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. So God is a first responder who calls us to work with him and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the story of Moses.
Let’s look at Exodus 3:7-10. God is speaking to Moses from the burning bush and what He says is that he hears the cry of his people and He sees that they are in need and so He is going to help them by sending Moses to lead them into a new land.
So what God is calling Moses to do is be a first responder and run and help the people of Israel who are in need. God has heard their cry and seen the plight and He wants to save them so He is sending in Moses, that’s what we heard in Exodus 3:10. I am sending you, Moses, to rescue my people. Be their hero and save them. Run to them and help. Be a first responder. But this wasn’t just a call to help the people physically; Moses was also to be a first responder of faith, because part of what God wanted Moses to do was bring his people back to him. We often forget this, but the reason Moses told Pharaoh that he wanted to take the Israelites out of Egypt was so that they could worship God, look at Exodus 5:1.
So Moses wasn’t just rescuing the people of Israel from the horrible situation of slavery, he was also calling the people to once again place their faith and trust in God. Moses was a first responder of faith, and I don’t think that call of God has changed. God hears the cries of people today and is saying to us, I am sending you to deliver and save them and the story of Moses shows us how.
The first thing we have to do is have our eyes and ears open to the needs of people, the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people. That’s what happened to Moses. Moses had fled Egypt years earlier and was living a quiet, happy life ignoring the problems of his own people. He didn’t hear their cries for help or see their need and sometimes I fear we live the same way. We fill our lives with so many activities and so many distractions that we don’t see the physical needs of people around us let alone their spiritual needs and if we don’t see the seriousness of the situation we won’t help. So if we want to be a first responder of faith we need God to open our eyes and ears and our heart so we can see what is really going on.
While prayer is part of having our eyes opened, we also need to look around and observe what is going on around us. Do you know that in our own community the number of people who claim to have no religious preference or don’t believe in God has increased 40% over the past few years? 1 in 4 people in our community claim no religious identification. Now that might sound good – 75% of our community does profess to have faith – but of those 75% only 16% of them say that their faith is really important to them and that number is decreasing. In other words, fewer and fewer people feel that their faith or a relationship with God is important in their lives. Are we willing to do anything about this?
And what about our children and youth? Fewer young people are claiming faith in Jesus for themselves and one reason is because fewer parents and families are modeling and teaching the basics of the Christian faith to their children. Recent studies show that only 12% of children talk to the Mother’s about faith and only 5% of children will talk to their Father’s about it. I don’t think this is because children aren’t interested or don’t have questions, I think it is because they don’t see their parents or the adults in their lives taking faith seriously so they just don’t ask. Can we hear the cries of our children and youth who might be searching for answers and looking for truth and justice and wanting to experience the love and grace of God but don’t know where to turn? Studies show that the best way that children learn about faith isn’t from Sunday school teachers or youth group, it’s when parents share their own experiences. Parents, are you ready to be a first responder of faith and run to your children? Are you ready to share your experiences and learn with your children what it means to follow Jesus?
It’s dangerous to ask God to open our ears and eyes because God just might do it and then we will be faced with a decision. Will we get involved or turn away? My hope is that once we see the needs and hear the cries we will want to get involved. My hope and prayer is that once we see the real needs and hear the cries that we won’t even think about it but we will just run to help others. Once the people of OK and Boston saw the needs around them ran to help. God ran to help. It’s time for us to run into the midst of the problems we see all around us and help.
Now one of the things that often keeps us from doing this is feeling like we don’t have it what it takes to help. I am sure the first responders in OK and Boston felt the same way, but they ended up doing more than they ever thought or imagined they could, and so can we. We have what it takes to help people today. In fact, we are the right men and women for the job because God has given us all we need to succeed in being a first responder of faith. You may not believe this, but it is true. Each and every one of us is the right person to help share the love of God with someone and that’s because the Holy Spirit has given each of us a gift to use for just this purpose.
Last Sunday was Pentecost and that is the day we remember the power of God’s spirit being poured out on the followers of Jesus and what the Holy Spirit did was give each and every follower of Jesus a gift to use to help others experience God. Look at 1 Corinthains 12:4-11. So every one of us has a gift and God has given us these gifts in order to help those around us come to faith in Jesus. None of us can sit back and say, I don’t have anything to give orit’s someone else’s job to talk about God and Jesus; that simply is not true. We all have something to give and we all have some way we can help – we just need to reach out and start helping.
Now the last thing God teaches us here about being a first responder of faith is that none of us are in this alone. God didn’t send Moses out alone he assured him that He was going with him. God gave Moses his presence through his name, and his power through the staff which he could take with him, but then God gave Moses a partner to help him, his brother Aaron. God knows that we will be more effective and powerful if we work together and that is what we have seen in first responders this week.
The reason the first responders in OK were successful in saving so many children was because they were willing to work together. They relied on each other to be there. They passed off children from one person to the next and then handed them to doctors and nurses and EMT’s who could check them out. They worked as a team and made a difference.
The reason so many people were rescued in Boston was because so many people were willing to just come together and work. They assisted each other and helped each other and weren’t afraid to ask others for help. The reason our police, firefighters, EMT’s and military are such powerful and effective forces for good both here and around the world is because they are teams that work together. What all of this teaches us is that if we are going to make a difference in the world and if we are going to bring people closer to God and help them place more faith and trust in Jesus it will be because we will be willing to work together and support, encourage and love one another.
So we have seen and been inspired by first responders this week and this weekend we remember those first responders who sacrificed everything they had to help people around the world. Their stories inspire us and the images we have seen of them running into danger ignites something in us that says we want to be a hero like they are, today we can. Today we can run to those in need of God’s grace and peace and share it with them.
Today we can run to our youth and support them as they seek to deepen their faith and serve God in missions. Today we can sign up to help with the children’s fair and reach out to families that might be far from God and invite them to experience God’s truth and grace and love at VBS. This weekend we can run to our own homes and begin conversations with our own children who might be searching to learn more about God. Today we can run to our spouses and friends and work to restore relationships and marriages. We don’t have to wait to be a hero to a child, a youth, a family, a senior, or a stranger in need, today we can be a first responders of faith and today we can reach out and save someone’s life.
First Responders of Faith
1. This week read Luke 15:3-32. Identify all the ways God is portrayed as a first responder in these three parables. What does this teach us about being a first responder of faith?
2. Every morning ask God to open your ears and eyes. Pray:
God, I ask you to open my ears to the cries of those in need around me and open my eyes so I may see their physical and spiritual needs. Today I also give you my heart and hands so that I may respond with faith to what I see and hear. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN
3. Identify 1 way you can help strengthen the faith of others.
· Support the youth mission trip with money and prayers.
· Volunteer at the Children’s Fair this Saturday.
· Commit to serving the needs of children and families by assisting in the nursery, children’s church, Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.
· Visit those who are sick and shut in.
· Pray for and support families that are hurting and in need.
4. Give to the Tornado Relief Offering and then commit to serving in a local mission or ministry this summer.
5. Give thanks for the first responders in our community by sending cards and letters of appreciation to police, fire fighters, EMT’s, nurses and teachers.
6. This weekend give thanks the first responders in our military by taking time to honor those who have given their lives in the past and praying for those who are serving today.