Across the Street – Video Sermon and Manuscript

The sermon from September 6, 2015, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church is included in this blog post (both the video and the manuscript).   The sermon is titled:  “Across The Street” and is based on James 2:1-8.  Each year our congregation joins 1400 others in the Baptist General Association of Virginia to collect an offering supporting the mission causes supported by our state association.  The offering is named for missions pioneer Alma Hunt.

The theme for this years offering emphasis is “Across the Street and Around the World.”  On September 6, the sermon will focus on the first part of that emphases.  In the September 13, 2015 worship gathering, the focus will be on the second part of that theme.

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You can watch the video below and/or read the manuscript.

Please note:  The sermon is told from a first person perspective.  This is a story I heard many years ago from another pastor.  I have a rough outline of the story in my notes and am sharing it as best I remember.  I do not have a notation for who first told this story.  If you know, please send me a note. 


“Across the Street”

James 2:1-8

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


This morning I am going  to tell you a story, one that demonstrates the meaning of our scripture while illustrating our theme for the  Alma Hunt State Missions Offering.  The theme for the offering is:  “Across the Street – Around the World!”


Each September the 1400 plus congregations in the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), collects an offering name for pioneer mission worker Alma Hunt.  The offering supports missionaries, ministries, and evangelistic projects sponsored by the BGAV.


Over the next two Sundays we are going to explore this theme.  Next week we will explore a missional focus that challenges us to act in ways that make a difference in the lives of people around the world.  This morning we will speak about a lifestyle that allows to make a positive impact on people who are just across  the street,


I heard this story several years ago.  I recently stumbled upon its outline in my notes.   Here’s the story.  I share it from a first person point of view.


Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.  It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.  What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.


Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional.  Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep.  But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.


I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town.  I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.


When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, then drive away.


But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door.  This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.  So I walked to the door and knocked.


“Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice.  I could hear something being dragged across the floor.  After a long pause, the door opened.


A small black woman in her 80s stood before me.  She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.


By her side was a small nylon suitcase.  The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.


There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters.  In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.


“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said.  I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.  She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.  She kept thanking me for my kindness.


“It’s nothing”, I told her.  “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”.


“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said.


When we got in the cab, she gave me and address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”


“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.


“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said.  “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.


I looked in the rearview mirror.  Her eyes were glistening.


“I don’t have any family left,” she continued.  “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”


I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.  “What route would you like me to take?”  I asked.


For the next two hours, we drove through the city.  She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.


We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.


She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.  Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.


As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired.  Let’s go now.”


We drove in silence to the address she had given me.  It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.  Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up.  They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.  They must have been expecting her.


I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door.  The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.


“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.


“Nothing,” I said.


“You have to make a living,” she answered.


“There are other passengers,” I responded.


Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.  She held onto me tightly.


“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said.”Thank you.”


I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light.


Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.


I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift.  I drove aimlessly, lost in thought.  For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?


What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?


On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.  We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.  But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.”


You have heard it said before – but I invite you to hear it again:  People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.


What kind of love do we show one another?


How do you make people feel?


Do we make distinctions between family and friends – and others?


And if we do, why?  Is it a reason that will hold up in the light of eternity?


We certainly have a calling to tend our family.  We are instructed to care for each other in the household of faith.  But we also are also called to see the whole human family as our brothers and our sisters.


You all recall most surely do you not why King Arthur and his knights had a round table?   So that no one might be seen as at the head or foot of the table….


So it is to be in our lives.  The only head we have is Jesus.  He is as the seat of honor.  He likes and loves us.  He accepts and includes us.  He adopts us and makes us a part of the Father’s heavenly family.  He gives us a place at the table.


As recipients of that grace, we are invited to make a place at the our table for others.  We have the privilege to adopt the lady across the street, the man around the corner, the children and teens just down the road.  The Spirit of God wants to teach us how to live with love as we accept and include.

At God’s table (where we are privileged to sit as recipients of Divine grace), there is no favoritism.  Everyone has an equal footing.  Everyone has a place at the round table.  That’s what James teaches us.


Some might be better off, but that does not make them better.  That doesn’t make them superior.  That doesn’t make them more important.  They don’t get a better seat.

It’s a round table.  Everyone has a good seat.  Everyone is accepted and included.  And Everyone at the table is called to loved everyone else.  The table belongs to God and God includes whosoever will.  So we love others the way God loves us and the way we love ourselves.


Let us pray to God that our ears may be opened and our hearts mended God’s grace so that our faith may lead to deeds of love and compassion.  Let us pray that our faith and our deeds be as one.


Jesus set a table for his disciples and served them all – even those who deserted him, denied knowing him, and betrayed him into the hands of those who would kill him.  His table was a place of inclusion and acceptance.


This table is also set by Jesus.  When we gather here we celebrate our inclusion.  We revel in the blessings of Divine grace.  We pray that that the example set by Jesus inspire us to love others, as he has loved us.   Be nourished so that you might be equipped to engage in the opportunities to love that are located right across the street.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


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