The Shortest Sermon


It was a cold winter’s day that Sunday. The parking lot to the church was filling. A man sat on the steps with a long trench coat that was almost in shreds and a hat topped his head. It was pulled down so you could not see his face. He wore shoes that looked 30 years old, too small for his feet, with holes all over them, his toes stuck out. I assumed this man was homeless, and asleep, so I walked on by through the doors of the church. We all had fellowship for a few minutes, and someone brought up the man laying outside. People snickered and gossiped but no one bothered to ask him to come in, including me. A few moments later church began. We all waited for the preacher to take his place and to give us the Word, when the doors to the church opened. In came the homeless man walking down the aisle with his head down. People gasped and whispered and made faces. He made his way down the aisle and up onto the pulpit where he took off his hat and coat. My heart sank. There stood our preacher…he was the “homeless man.” No one said a word. The preacher took his bible and laid it on his stand. “Folks, I don’t think I have to tell you what I am preaching about today.” This illustration came across my path years ago. I’m fairly certain I would have walked right past this “homeless” man. You?

22 thoughts on “The Shortest Sermon”

  1. Cindy,
    Thank you for sharing this!!! It pierced my heart and really made me evaluate how I would have handled this. It made me think of my own church and how this man would have been perceived. We all would like to think we would have extended a hand to this man, a kind word, but in reality all too often I think we tend to look the other way.

    I am printing this off and reading it to my four teens in the morning at breakfast!

  2. we probably would have, but would our children? No way! They won’t let me drive by someone stopped on the side of the road or a man holding a “hungry” sign! Their hearts are not hardened….yet.

  3. I don’t have to say I’m pretty sure I would… I do it everyday!
    Though it breaks my heart, my heart would have hurt for him, but would I have done anything?
    I hope that I would, but honestly, I don’t everyday!
    The funny thing is, if it were a woman, my response may be different. I would probably approach her, as long as there were people around… is it our lack of concern, safety, possibly insecurity, feelings of helplessness, or something altogether different that keeps us from even approaching?

  4. I have recently been exposed to people who are homeless….and it has given me a true reality check – they are just like you and me….by God’s grace there go I…right?? There is a great song out now…have only heard it once but the chorus pricked my heart….says “He may be a wandered, he’s old and he’s gray…but what if he’s Jesus, and I walk away.” Food for thought….If you do NOTHING, nothing will happen, but if you do SOMETHING……even the smallest thing…..God can open doors bigger than you could ever imagine.

  5. I don’t know. You see so many homeless in Dallas that you tend to become un-phased. I’m with Jes though. Had it been a woman, I would have most likely reacted differently.

  6. Wow…that really struck a chord with me. Yes I probably would have walked on by. That is a sad thing to admit.

    I’m fairly new to your blog. I have some questions for you and I was wondering if you would email me privately? Thanks!

  7. I am ashamed to say that sometimes I would walk past. When my fear is controlling my actions instead of Holy Spirit’s guidance.

  8. honestly- since it was a man i would have walked by – but my husband would have stopped – he has a heart for the homeless and it is so beautiful to see -on our honeymoon i was shoppin in a store and he saw a homeless man out side and went to go buy him lunch – of course he told me this after i bought my stuff so i would not feel bad- he wanted me to enjoy my experience at that store – he is tooo nice to me sometimes

  9. I would have wanted to stop. It is almost sad though that I’d have to think about safety and being smart about the situation now-a-days. But I guess that’s where the trusting God part comes in. 🙂 Pretty convicting and powerful message!

  10. Vickie – What’d your teens think?
    Sheri – Let’s pray AGAINST the hardening of our children’s hearts!
    Joylene – Use away!
    Jess – A lot of women are concerned for their safety. Present company included! But God is bigger than that!
    Lori – If we all did something a lot of BIG things would happen!
    Robin – It’s hard to not become desensitized to things we see regularly.
    TDLough – You are welcome!
    HolySpiritHelp – You are right. Fear is what affects us the most in situations like this, I think.
    Misti – What a blessed woman you are to have a man like him. And, I bet he is equally as blessed!
    Libby- I couldn’t agree more! Trusting the One who has never let us down is key.
    Hope – My pleasure. Good to have your thoughts.

  11. Wow…..
    In following the phrase from the preacher, “I don’t think you have to guess what my prayer is.”
    May God open my eyes and heart to those around me. May He help me see others as He would seem them. May He forgive me for the blinders I have had up.

    Thanks for your words.

  12. I don’t know that I would have stopped myself, but I would have gone in and got someone to help. My heart goes out for these people. I even hate to see someone eat alone at a restaurant, go to a movie alone or someone at church or school that seems to be left out. I always seem to be looking and see those people. My family teases me about being everybody’s mother. It did remind me of something that was prophesied over me several years ago. I hadn’t read this in a few years but got it out after reading your blog, Cindy.

    “Daughter of the Lord, you’re a nurse in the body of Christ. You’re one that’s able to detect when someone is hurting and it’s easy for you to detect it. It is easy for you to read their face. It’s like their face is an open book to you You can tell immediatelyif there’s something wrong. I’ve given this to you so that you can minister to them when you see that, so that you will reach out. I want you to know that you have the ability to see that something is wrong, but you also know the answer. Don’t feel like you need to go and get someone else. All you need is to get them to Me and I can heal and touch every wound. I’m the Physician. The nurse is the one who prepares them for the physician. I’m the one who you bring them to. I have put that compassion in your heart.” says the Lord your God.

    So many times I am not obedient when I see someone hurting or alone. I see them and feel for them, but I don’t do anything or I go and get someone else.

    The times that I’ve have gone to the Rescue Mission or The Mercy Center and pray with the people there and help with food or clothing, there is a undescribable feeling of fullfillment. I believe we serve a Big God and He can meet every need, and heal those broken hearts and be a hope that you can’t explain. He is the answer to everything. I just wished it showed that I believe that in little things of every day life.

  13. One son was still up when I logged off last night. I read it to him then. He is my thoughtful, laid back, contemplative child, and it moved him deeply. He just kept saying over and over again, “Man”. The other three this morning kinda seemed shocked at first. It prompted great conversation.

    You know as parents we so often raise our young ones to be leery of strangers. Our daughter said something very thought provoking this morning. She said, “Mom you know all the people you see on television that have been arrested for crimes against young children are not all that scary looking, they look normal.” I pondered that today. Normal. I want my children to have a heart sensitive to others no matter how they look. I was encouraged by my childrens conversation this morning at breakfast.

  14. I have developed a heart for the homeless after going to NYC the last few years on mission trips. I think I can honestly say if it happened today I would reach out to him….maybe not several years ago.

  15. wow! I read this on my sister’s blog (tamara cosby) and had to respond. I was just convicted of this exact thing today before church…oh how sad I was when I realized that how I react to the “least of these” is exactly how I am reacting to Jesus. I have become so hardened. Especially because our church does a lot of outreach with homeless men and I have convinced myself that there are enough programs out there they can go to if they want help. That and we really encourage no one to give money to the homeless because we have several times given a lot of money to help and it has been used for them to buy drugs and other items that hurt them rather than help them. But I know beyond a shadow of a doublt that the Lord desires us to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to those who look homeless, simply talking to them and being a friend. I do agree with one of the ladies who blogged earlier about being a woman makes it especially difficult. But our hearts are what God looks at. And if my first reaction is to simply say “I have no cash” and walk away. Christ is seeing the hardness of my heart not just the words I spoke to rush by him…

    Again the verse convicts me…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?’

    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.’

    46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
    Matthew 25:44-46

    thank you for the reminder. I pray that our Father will soften our hearts to love past our fears and give us boldness to do what we are most uncomfortable doing.

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