WHAT CAN WE DO?

I lead a men’s Bible Study at our Church in Colorado. The other night we were discussion the 23rd Psalm and how God provides for us as our shepherd. The question arose concerning places in the world where it does not seem that God is providing the same way for them as for us in this first world country.

We wondered aloud why that is, and talked some about human responsibility, one for the other. And then I came across a piece in this month’s Sojourner’s Magazine, a Christian monthly about Christian responsibility with regards to justice issues. Anyway, here’s the quote:

“We live in a country where 250,000 people die from poverty each year. According to the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, more that 45% of black children are poor; 54% of African Americans make less than a living wage. Here we are, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and we have 400 families in this country that make $95,000 an hour while we are locking people up who simply want $15 an hour and a union.” P.19 (Rev. Dr. William Barber II)*

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t make money if they can. I am addressing the concern in our group wondering how it is that we are being good stewards of God’s provisions when there is much poverty in this first world nation of ours.

The country is so big that I am not sure churches can by themselves make the appropriate assistance. So maybe it’s our responsibility as Christian citizens to elect people who can do more for the ‘least of these’. Just sayin’.

How do the little hungry children say the 23rd Psalm in the evening? I am not even answering the question I am posing. (Is that a rhetorical device?) I am just asking, ‘What can we do as God’s people?’ What can I do?

And, I am still waiting, as of this writing, for Nebuchadnezzar to say something of sympathy for women who are sexually abused. That’s just me, a Christian citizen, speaking for myself.

 

*Dr. Barber is President of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival.

ONE BIG DISTRACTION

The National Safety Council reports several thousand deaths each year due to distracted drivers on our highways. I think most of them are in Colorado where I am told people feel a certain entitlement while driving meaning they can pretty much do whatever they like. Everything from cellphone use to adjusting the radio to just plain daydreaming and not thinking about what they heck they are doing.

Anyway. Enough of that. What I am writing about today is the DISTRACTION OF COMPLACENCY within the Christian faith. Driving the highway of life.

I recall Jesus speaking with his disciples not long before his arrest. He told them to WATCH and PRAY so that they would not be led into temptation away from God- their true source of life. (See Matthew 26:41f) He concludes by saying that the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’.

We grow complacent when we stop watching and praying thinking that all is well for us at the moment. It happens when we are not vigilant about what is going on around us. So many times Jesus told stories about a master going away and leaving his servants to care for his estate. The creation and the people of it are so important to our Lord. We dare not just take care of our selves while the world suffers.

And it can get to the point where we are like the church of Laodicea, a city just southeast of Philly (not the one in Pa.), which is now in ruins. But back their heyday they had it made. And in the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to the church there: “you all say that you are rich and have need of nothing not realizing how pitifully poor and naked you are even with all your wealth and finery.” (See Rev. 3:17f)

Complacency distracts us from the Christ at the center of all life. Even in this season I am troubled by the bumper stickers that say KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS. What that does is legitimize the extravagance of Christmas for the ‘well off’. Keeping Christ at the center of our lives would be to recall that Jesus came with nothing worldly for those who were poor, marginalized and treated unjustly.

So now in this beautiful season we have a TAX PLAN. I guess that’s great for some folks but it is a distraction of complacency from the threat of poverty, poor health coverage, nuclear war, and a nationalism that says, ‘US FIRST’ at the expense of so many in want and in need of some of the basic necessities of life. The better economy and the greater number of jobs and general political euphoria on the part of at least one party provide the same situation that we find in Laodicea.

“We have all we need.” “What a great Christmas present.” And let me repeat that for some it may be ‘life saving’. I am personally for a more robust economy from which America can help the poor. And recall that ‘the poor’ are the centerpiece of God’s attention for this earth.

Prov. 14:31 Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Is. 58:10. “And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

But forgive me if I am a bit suspect on how this new economy will help the poor.

Recall God’s words in Deuteronomy 4:25f “When the time comes that you have children and grandchildren, are growing older and you start taking things for granted and growing complacent and start to make any idol no matter what kind and form – well then I can tell you. You are in big trouble.”

What does the Lord really require of us but TO DO JUSTICE (this doesn’t mean arresting undocumented people) LOVE MERCY, AND WALK HUMBLY WITH OUR GOD. Humble means acting in the attitude and manner of Jesus. (And just so you know. I have a long way to go in this regard.) See Amos 6.

Now I realize that our country is not a theocracy and that’s a good thing but as Christians we, in this country, are called to be a LIGHT FOR THE WORLD. Let us not be distracted or grow weary from doing good.

The other day I encountered a man on a street corner asking for some money for his family. I’m not sure how he will benefit from the new tax law but I care more about how Christian lawyers and laypeople can help our country to help those like him. (See Matthew 25)

I was hungry and you fed me

Thirsty and you gave me drink

Homeless and you gave me a room

Sick and imprisoned and you visited me.

 

And one more thing. Let’s enjoy ourselves this festive season but let not our religious ceremonies distract us into thinking what good people we are to observe the day. No, Jesus doesn’t call us to ‘religion’ but to life …. important and maybe more so on the 26th (oh by the way, that’s my birthday, speaking of distractions) and beyond. Watch and Pray.

 

Grace and Peace to all. And God bless us EVERYONE.

I CHOOSE GRACE

Why does God choose to work in our weaknesses rather than in our strengths? Does God want to show us who is boss? Does God have a pride problem? Does God perhaps want to humiliate us for our sin? Is God himself weak?

No. It’s because God cannot develop a relationship with his creation if we think we are strong enough to succeed by ourselves. That’s what happened in the Garden a long time ago. And it’s what happens whenever and wherever humans build their own egos (their territorial walls) against the love of another, in this case God.

God wants to love us and love is best enjoyed when neither lover is a bully or egotist.

God has already demonstrated his own weakness and vulnerability in Jesus. That’s what the incarnation is all about. Not only does God live with us but God loves with us and suffers with us in order to give love a fertile ground in which to thrive. See, God’s grace can only flourish in weakness. It’s the law of God’s universe and God’s salvation and restoration of humankind. And while much suffering is unthinkable and unbearable it is the only path of love in this world and God wants love enough that God gives freedom even to evil and greed on this journey. Certainly God can work all things to the good for those who understand this but unfortunately not many do. And God will not force his love on us or coerce us to love him. That would be abusive and meaningless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God tells Paul that God’s love is sufficient/enough for Paul’s needs in the midst of Paul’s own suffering. And through it Paul will develop more understanding of God’s love in this world. It will be the kind of love that will develop community and form a bride for the living Christ. And through Paul’s own suffering God will develop a character that God can trust with his powerful love and restoration of this creation.

It’s as though God is letting the EGO of this world be ‘lost’ in order to be ‘found’ again.

There are a great many trees in our contemporary Gardens of Eden. And if we could we would choose them over God and make our own way. But creation doesn’t work that way. It is been arranged that we NEED each other. We love each other. We care for each other. And without suffering there would be only self-sufficiency.

Fortunately the tree is now inaccessible and unavailable try as we might to find it or grow our own.

Before the tree there was only love. Now through Christ love, eternal love, has been restored. Through the poverty of Christ our lives have been enriched. There is a choice now: self-sufficiency or grace. I CHOOSE GRACE.