Being God's Friend: Loyalty and Openness
Opening Question: What does it take to get someone to help you? To keep helping you?
First Reading: Hosea 6:3-6
Hosea was angry! He was a stranger in the kingdom north of where he lived. When he came to the capitol of the northern kingdom, he expected people to treat him like he would treat them. With respect and help. But the people of the north were rude. They smiled at him, but behind his back they talked.
His angry ran deeper than their fake smiles. The people didn't help each other. The rich stole from the poor. The powerful hurt the weak. They were a selfish people who, when they got into trouble, would run back to God. When the trouble passed, they would go back to their old ways.
What do you think Hosea said to the people? (Read Hosea 6:3-6)
God wants more than just our words and few prayers. He wants our hearts. He wants us to make a commitment, a serious promise, to follow him.
Bridging Question: Have you ever felt like a stranger? Did anyone help you feel comfortable? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 9:9-13
At home in Capernaum, Jesus healed a paralyzed man. After that, Jesus left. Then he saw Matthew sitting in a tax office.'Follow me!"he said to the tax man. Matthew stood up and followed Jesus.
Then Jesus went to a banquet. Many tax collectors and outsiders shared the meal with Jesus and his followers. When the Pharisees saw what happened, they complained to Jesus' followers, 'Why does your Teacher share meals with tax collectors and outsiders?'
Jesus overheard their question.'Healthy people don't need a doctor. The sick do!'Jesus said.'Go and learn what the Bible saying means,'I don't just want people's worship. I want them to treat others with compassion!.'I didn't come to help the good people. I came to help outsiders turn to God!'
Yolanda was scared, but she didn't want her mother to see her fear. Yolanda was flying across the country to see her grandmother. Alone. At the airport terminal, her mother got on her knees and hugged Yolanda. "I'll miss you so much!" her mother said. "Just remember to do what the stewardess tells you to do." Her mother pointed to a lady in a blue suit, with a big smile. "Now, hug me goodbye," her mother said.
Yolanda fought back the tears. She knew her mother had to work. But she still didn't know why she had to go see her grandmother. She liked her grandmother. But she didn't like being with strangers in a strange place. She tried to ignore her stress as she left her mother and walked with the stewardess to the airplane.
"Hi, my name is Patti," the stewardess said with a sweet smile. "I'll be helping you on your flight to see your grandmother. It is your grandmother, isn't it?"
"Yes," Yolanda simply replied.
"Have you ever flown before?" Patti asked.
"No, this is my first time," Yolanda said.
"It's fun, you know," Patti stated. "The take off is just like the rush of a roller coaster. Then the flight feels really smooth."
As they walked through the tunnel, entered the plane, and sat down, Patti and Yolanda talked about flying. The fear began to leave Yolanda. Patti excused herself so she could take care of her other responsibilities. Soon, the girl began to distract herself with the headphones Patti gave her, the small screen in front of her to watch movies, and the book her mother bought her.
Yolanda saw Patti show what to do in an emergency. Then, the girl felt the airplane take off, lifting up higher and higher. When the plane leveled off, Patti came up to Yolanda. "How's it going?" Patti asked. "We'll be serving drinks in a few minutes. Would you like anything special?"
"Orange juice?" Yolanda said.
"I think we can handle that," Patti replied with a big smile.
As Patti walked to the front of the plane, Yolanda realized she wasn't scared anymore. Someone nice like Patti had welcomed her and helped her feel comfortable. No, this wasn't home, but it wasn't a bad place to be for Yolanda. This was all because someone like Patti reached out to her and tried to be a friend.
Like Patti, Jesus reached out to people with a warm friendliness. He even took a risk to be friendly with people no one else liked. Outsiders and people who could not help themselves. Others criticized him for being that friendly. But Jesus didn't care. He did it to bring people close to God.
So, when you see someone new at school or at church, or on a new team, be like Jesus. Make friends with them. And ignore the bad things others say about them. Or about you.
Closing Question: How can you help strangers feel more at ease?