[Here’s a submission from the Chicago area – notes from last Sunday’s guest speaker.]
Pastor Fred Aigner, President, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI.org)
(his sermon given Feb. 19th, 2006, my notes from memory.)
Scripture was Mark 2:1-12, where four friends of a paralytic bring him to see Jesus. Blocked by the crowd, they dug through the roof and lowered their friend into the room where Jesus was.
Aigner pointed out that the crowd was there to see Jesus, and yet blocked this man from receiving help.
Applied to Today
Today’s crowds seems to embody the belief that those in need must have done something wrong to be in their position of neediness, so they should have to figure it out on their own. Aigner asks us to not be the crowd, but to be the friends, willing to advocate for those in need.
Real Life Around Us
“What’s going on out there?” LSSI is seeing:
-more women and children in need
–spread of drug use to suburbs and small towns (previously an urban problem); he referred to methamphetamines as an epidemic of major proportions
LSSI deals with people with major needs, who need long-term help. People often have more than one issue; homeless people often have health issues (no insurance), for example.
LSSI staff has shrunk from over 4000 to between 1800 and 2000 in the last few years.
“A budget is a moral narrative.” (He repeated this several times.)
Education and health insurance are holding their own in the state budget.
Social services get cut to balance the budget. Why is this? Because the people the social services budgets used to serve – the people LSSI represents – are the people with no voice:
-elders descending into dementia who don’t get out to vote
-drunks and addicts who in their altered state cannot remember to vote
LSSI places for adoption between 300 and 700 children per year, and has a real need for homes for medically challenged kids. There are currently about 18,000 kids in the system, down from 53,000 several years ago.
LSSI recently commissioned a survey, receiving enough results to be statistically viable. The primary question was whether Lutherans should use their voices to influence public policy.
-74% very strongly in support
So over 96% of Lutherans surveyed support or strongly support influencing public policy, despite the Lutheran history of quietism.
Aigner asks us all, as “friends of Jesus”, to raise our voices, talk to our representatives, take care of each other.
Our faith is an “audible” faith.