a sermon on mercy with emphasis on Haiti

I gave this sermon this morning at my church.

Two Wednesday nights ago, four 50 somethings from this area, could not fall asleep again. The previous nights were due to the heat and humidity, but this was humidity on a new level of misery. These Yankees had never experienced a thunderstorm so loud and violent and rain so hard as this one. But then, none of them had ever been in Haiti before, in July. Although this house in Jacmel, on the southeastern coast of Haiti had remained standing after the massive earthquake of January 12th, 2010, it apparently had lost some strength in its roof. With this much water coming down, so hard and so fast, all the cracks in the flat concrete roof let the rain in on the team, who were alone for their first night. So they got up in the night and started to mop out the wet rooms. At least they were on bunk beds off the floor. Compared to tens of thousands of Haitians throughout SE Haiti, they were living in luxury: electricity, flush toilets, showers, solid walls, fans that almost kept them cool at night and drowned out the screeching roosters who argue all night. Unlike thousands of Haitians still in tents that night, they wouldn’t have to stand up all night while the water gathered on the floor of their tarp shelter and soaked their bedding.

Why were these 4 middle aged Yankees there last week? Because they wanted to embody the mercy of God.

Proverbs 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins,
but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

Are Haitians our neighbors? They aren’t even Americans. They live 700 miles south of Miami and a 90 minute plane ride. They practice voodoo which is scary and weird. Their country is so screwed up, they are the poorest country on this side of the planet. But on January 12 a massive earthquake killed nearly a quarter million Haitians and made a million survivors homeless. They are in need. And God blesses those who are kind to the needy.
But you know there are people in need right now in Norwich. Do you also need to concern yourself with Haitians too? Jesus met a guy with a similar question.

Luke 10:25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

LK 10:26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

LK 10:27 He answered: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

LK 10:28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

LK 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

LK 10:30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest/UN worker happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite/Red Cross, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan/50 year old corrections officer, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

LK 10:36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

LK 10:37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Back in January, right after the earthquake, Pastor Joe decided that all the money given that morning would be set aside for an opportunity to have mercy on some Haitians in need. We spent most of it on this trip. Because of the gifts made to this church, we were able to provide $6000 towards the construction of a new house for a single mom in Jacmel, built by Haitians your money hired, and 2 guys from here. It is only 12’x15’, but its enough to sleep in, especially in those monster thunderstorms, as well as a hurricane.

Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

God’s word tells us, that caring for those in need, our neighbors is a way to honor Him, which means a way to worship Him. It’s a form of worship because it’s a form of imitation. God is merciful, so his children should be as well.

Jesus says as much in Luke 6:35-36
LK 6: 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

I want to thank you on behalf of the team for the honor of embodying the mercy of God in Haiti with your assistance. I want to thank you on behalf of a Haitian woman and her kids in Haiti for providing a home to replace the one destroyed in the earthquake. But that is only one woman. I want to encourage you to keep being generous to the Haitians. My hope for you is to embody God’s mercy consistently and make generosity part of your identity.

Proverbs 11:24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

PR 11:25 A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Your generosity goes so far in Haiti. One team member, when she returned realized her daughter, making $10 an hour was making in a day what we paid the Haitian house builders for the week. The Haitians aren’t paid by the hour, but by the day. They made $12 a day last week. That was good before the earthquake when unemployment was over 80%, but it’s even more important now. Not only did you bless one woman, but you blessed 4 families, whose men were able to bring in food money and rent money and clothes money.

When I came back in February and told you how kids could be educated, fed, clothed, and doctored for a dollar a day, many of you responded and committed to sponsoring over 60 Haitian kids.

Another team member returned and found out her dog needs some medical care. She realized her dog is getting better care than most Haitians. Your giving goes a long way down there.

Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered.

Mercy is demonstrated in generosity to the poor. Jesus says in the beatitudes,

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

He explains this in more detail in Matthew 25:31-46.
MT 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

MT 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

MT 25:37 "Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

MT 25:40 "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

MT 25:41 "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

MT 25:44 "They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

MT 25:45 "He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

MT 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Hunger? Yes! The team had a block party with kids on the streets for 3 nights. They saw kids with the distended abdomens which indicated malnutrition. They also children with orange hair which indicates lack of protein. Children still die in Haiti, as they did before the quake from malnutrition. You can feed Jesus in Haiti.

Thirsty? Yes! There well water isn’t safe for Westerners to drink. They buy bottled water. Instead of oil trucks up here in New England, Haiti has water trucks that people who have so little money need to buy from if they don’t want the dirty water. I read one account of the business owners in Haiti complaining about the aid distribution that included water, because it was hurting their bottom line! You can help Jesus’ thirst in Haiti.

Naked? Yes! Some kids run around bottomless. Most of the kids have worn through shoes, but on that rocky island, really need something better for their feet. The house builders were mixing cement with shovels in bare feet. The Yankee thought for sure someone would lose some toes. Each team member ended up giving the extra clothes and shoes they came down with to Haitians. You can clothe Jesus in Haiti.

Strangers? Yes! Between 2 and 300,000 children are house slaves in Haitian households. Here is one woman’s story.
Alina "Tibebe" Cajuste described her childhood as a restav├Ęk this way:
"This is a sad, sad story to the world. A woman who used to come sell in the market told my mother to give me to her. My mother had no support, so she had to.
"What did this woman make me do? I had to get up before 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to make the food, sweep the floor and wash the car, so that when the family woke up everything would be ready. Then I had to wash dishes, fetch water and go sell merchandise for her in the countryside. When I came back from the marketplace, I would carry two drums of water on my head, so heavy, to wash up for her. Then I'd go buy things to make dinner. And I couldn't even eat the same food as her. If she ate rice, I only got cornmeal. I didn't even wear the same sandals or dresses as her child. My dresses were made out of the scraps of cloth that were left over from what she sold in the marketplace. I couldn't even sleep in a bed."
You can welcome Jesus out of slavery in Haiti.

Sick? Yes! The team went to one understaffed orphanage where the children were provided for physically. They weren’t starving, but even kids up to 7 years old were laying in cribs. The women couldn’t make it past the third crib before they were overwhelmed with tears and broken hearts for these kids. They were able to leave toys in the cribs and hug these kids and hold them. In fact, I have a picture of them each holding a child and trying to smile, but their puffy wet eyes tell a more complicated story. You can look after Jesus in Haiti.

Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

So the team partnered with a ministry and a local church down there. After traveling all day Saturday, they were able to worship with their Haitian family on Sunday. Then Monday through Thursday, they tried to bless that family.

While the guys mixed cement and lifted block, the women taught a Vacation Bible School. Haitian kids have nothing, so they play with garbage. But the women had gone to the dollar store and bought pencils and stickers and glow in the dark bracelets and post-it notes in the shape of stars. The kids were so excited to have these trinkets. Even the adults wanted them.

And every kid wanted the gift of Jesus. Apparently, they will receive the gift of salvation from Jesus every time the invitation is made by visiting teams. But why not?

Jesus offers hope. In the midst of all the devastation and poverty that the Haitians live in, not one Christian they met was bitter or nasty. The know the truth, better than we of 1 Timothy 6:17-19

1TI 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Jesus makes it so easy for us to go to heaven, by taking on himself the just penalty due for our sins. All we need to do is agree with him. Jesus tells us several times how simple it is. In Luke 18:9-14 he says

LK 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

LK 18:13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

LK 18:14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

But we want to earn it somehow by doing something good. But Jesus says there is only one thing to do in John 6:28, 29, 40, 47.
JN 6:28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
JN 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

If you haven’t received God’s mercy first, I plead with you today to do so. If you have done it, I plead with you to honor God by being kind to the needy and care for Jesus by caring for the poor. If you are not already regularly being generous, I hope you will consider helping Haitians through groups like our hosts in Jacmel, or sponsor kids with the groups (story 1 a, b, c, or story 2) I went with, Mission E4, and Calvary Chapel Port-au-Prince who have an orphanage as well, or Samaritian's Purse, or the Salvation Army. I have seen what they are doing, and I can assure you, your money will be spent on the poor.

James tells us,

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


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