Then the king will say to those on his left, "Get away from me! You are under God's curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me." Matthew 25:41-43 (CEV)
Let me warn you, we are not driving where you expect to go. The above scripture will totally mislead you if you think I am going to talk about the Christian duty to the poor. Actually, I would like to totally misapply it to a number of modern businesses and professionals.
Imagine if you just bought a computer from Best Buy. You and I both know they have those cute little black and white cars with Geek Squad on the side, and they will come to your house to help you set it up, plug it in, and get started (for a fee of course). They will also come to your home if you have a problem, like the DVD drive stopped working after your three year old stuffed a piece of toast in there. But there is this customer service problem -- if you want them to come, you have to call them. They should just now when your computer is broken and come out and help you. There should be some way through the internet that they can tell there is a problem and send a driver over to fix it without your having to lift the phone. Right?
Or imagine that you have suddenly come down with a horrible case of collywobbles (intestinal cramping) and you can't get our of bed. It just keeps getting worse and worse. You think you may have appendicitis, and you tell every one you know all the details. But even after starting the telephone chain and the rumor mill your doctor never shows up at your door to take a look at you. He or she should know by now, you've told enough busybodies that it should be the talk of the town -- its even posted on Facebook. Even after a few weeks the doctor does not come. Why? Doesn't your doctor care? Then one day your appendix bursts and you have to call an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Certainly you have a malpractice claim, and the doctor should pay for your expenses, since if he or she had only gotten to you sooner your appendix wouldn't have burst. Right?
Or imagine that you are in desperate need of cheering up. You are down in the dumps so low that the earthworms know your name. What would really help is a visit from Ronald McDonald, because the nostalgia of seeing his happy smile and his big shoes brings you back to your childhood, when you had no worries. Besides you are sort of craving a hamburger with extra ketchup and double pickles. But day after day, Ronald doesn't show up at your door, and so you slip deeper and deeper into depression, and hamburger deprivation. Certainly as large an organization as McDonald's should have a way of knowing your need. They must have a satellite with hamburger deprivation detection, so they can send out an emergency hamburger delivery by Ronald McDonald himself (or at least one of his employee minions dressed up like him). Right?
So have you figured out where this is going, because there is a pattern here. If you want something, in practically any area of life, from any business or professional person -- you have to initiate the contact. You call Best Buy, you go to the doctor's office, you drive through McDonald's and order three strawberry shakes to cheer yourself up. But church people often expect the pastor to just be there, without a call, without a request, without asking. I hate to tell you but if Best Buy, your doctor, and McDonald's haven't figured out a way to respond to your needs before you ask -- neither have we. God does not deliver little notices to our e-mail inbox that say, "Mrs. Myrna Flynn is in the hospital and would like a visit." And though we try to keep a close watch on our social network, sometimes the gossip train skips our house and we don't here the news.
Yet, even though they haven't lifted the phone, or said anything to us, people get mad when we aren't there. I have even had people leave the church over something I knew nothing about until months later. People, take responsibility for yourselves, if you have a need tell us. Push the vending machine button and order E6 -- one hospital visit (free of charge). Do something to make sure we know. Then if we don't come, it won't be because we didn't know (it may be because we think you are a hypersensitive angry old goat, but then at least you will have good reason to be mad).