Archives For Our Responsibilities to the Poor

ArrestedOn the morning of Saturday, August, 24, Love Wins showed up at Moore Square at 9:00 a.m., just like we have done virtually every Saturday and Sunday for the last six years. We provide, without cost or obligation, hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone who wants one. We keep this promise to our community in cooperation with five different, large suburban churches that help us with manpower and funding.

On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested.

SOURCE:  Hugh Hollowell: Feeding Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, NC | Red Letter Christians.

 

You got to read this one. I am glad that the leadership of Raleigh have worked out this issue but what is important is that it could have probably happened almost anywhere in the country.

I have often said on this blog that maybe we should give up our stained glass churches and move them to strip malls, abandoned buildings, or other less costly surroundings. For many churches today paying the mortgage and utilities is a the second biggest drain on a small congregation (the biggest drain is usually the pastor’s salary).  That is why there is some validity to the claim that churches are more like clubhouses than anything else. Many spend the vast majority of their money on themselves.

For small churches, and most churches are small, these two areas of expense take up the lion’s share of congregational giving. There is usually very little money left for any other activity. If we could somehow reduce those major expenses we could get back to practicing “hospitality” as they did in the early Christian church. Hospitality basically meant “being your brother’s keeper” to the early Christians.

This article in Sojourner November issue is about Rev. Deborah Little who is doing just that. She should be an example to all of us Christians in how to “be” a Christian instead of a litany of proclaimed “beliefs”.

Source:  Sojourners November 1012 —Word on the Street by Charles Howard

This is Common Cathedral, an outdoor “street church”. Each Sunday at 1 p.m., in sunshine, rain, or snow people gather, 50 to 100 strong, next to Brewer Fountain on Boston Common. There, they witness love in a church without walls….

Reverend Little had a very unique history in fulfilling her calling. Here are the words from the above article relaying her story:

“the living bread appeared to me as a homeless woman. She was sitting on the steps of my apartment building. In an instant, I knew I was to make my home with her and others who lived on the streets”. It took Little around six years to answer that call, but finally she quit her job as the director of communications for Harvard Law School, went to the seminary, and got ordained. “I did this so I could take the church outdoors to the people who cannot or are not welcome to come inside”….

Over time Common Cathedral has grown from just a weekly service to a broad-reaching ministry with Bible studies, an arts program, a film screen program, legal and medical counsel, a hospital visitation program and more. 

It is hard for any of us to imagine giving up a lucrative job at Harvard Law School to go to the seminary and eventually making your life calling making  a church without walls for the homeless! Wow!! If her example is not an inspiration for all of us I don’t think anything could be.

It turns out that the Common Cathedral was an inspiration for others. In fact there are several other outdoor churches in major cities in the U.S. and the world.  Rev. Little’s simple idea grew beyond expectations. That is usually what happens when you get God’s attention 🙂 .

I am so glad to celebrate this success story.

Stumbling Forward….

September 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

Jesus meant for us to look forward in the world to accomplish the tasks he gave us. If you read the red letters for what they are and not necessarily what others think about them then you will know that he didn’t intend for us to always be looking backwards to what he did for us. He gave each one of us who call ourselves his followers a mission to love each other, to help bring God’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven, and to take care of the “least of these”. Those should be our primary tasks while we occupy our space on this earth.

Yes, what he did for us in dying for our sins assures us heaven and is huge indeed  and we should and will be eternally grateful.  But he also gave us a “to do” list to accomplish. If we spend all our time looking backwards then we are always stumbling into the future and that is certainly not what he intends.

Maybe…. Just Maybe….

September 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I got the below email from Sojourners with responses from both presidential candidates on how they will address the problem of poverty in America. Given that our current study is “our responsibilities to the poor” it came at a very appropriate time.

I am tempted to make some remarks about the two approaches but will refrain from doing so in this post.  Click on any of the indicated spots in the email to see the videos (they are even closed captioned for those of us who are deaf).

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Dear R.J.,

What happened today was unprecedented. Christian leaders from across the theological and political spectrum came together to demand that the presidential candidates directly address the issue of poverty.

And because of the faith community’s witness, the candidates responded. Check out whatPresident Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney had to say.

Obama/Romney Video

Election seasons often sow deep divisions within our churches. The political pundits focus on the most contentious issues. Super PACs are spending millions of dollars on negative advertising. Sadly, we are often “One Nation, Divided Under God.”

But a new consensus is emerging. Poverty is the common moral concern of Christians in this election season. That is why I stood side by side with leaders from the Catholic Church, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches, Black and Hispanic churches, and other organizations to ask that the candidates address the economic hardships and hopelessness felt by far too many of our brothers and sisters. The newest poverty numbers came out today, the faith community responded, and, at our request, President Obama and Gov. Romney did too.

Thanks for all you’re doing to keep this conversation going.

In Faith,

Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners

The Love of God….

September 12, 2012 — Leave a comment

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them,  how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children,  let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  — 1 John 3:16 – 28

I am going to start off this series about the followers of Jesus responsibilities to the poor with one of my favorite quotes outside the red letters. The author of 1 John is thought to be the same person who wrote the Gospel by that name. It is similar in style but no author is identified in the letter itself.  An early church leader named Irenaeus is thought to be the first to put John’s name to the letter more than one-hundred years after it was written. For purposes of this post I am going to assume that he was correct. The Apostle John was one of those who learned at the feet of Jesus so I believe he more than most knew after three years of daily exposure the heart of Jesus. So, even though these words probably did not come from Jesus himself they are authoritative in my mind.

This quote contains some brutal words. If you see a brother or sister, and Jesus said everyone is your brother or sister, in need and have no pity on them how can God’s love be in you? In other words God gives us the responsibility to help the poor.  Can you really call yourself a child of God if you don’t have God’s love in you? That is a foundational question that John is asking.

It almost seems like John is looking forward more than twenty centuries with the last part of his message.  “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions”. I sadly see in today’s world many who call themselves Christians railing against the safety net our government provides in this country.  They say it is not government’s job to take care of the poor!  It is unconstitutional! If the need is not being met elsewhere, and it is certainly not, then what are those in need supposed to do? Since our churches don’t begin to meet the need who can if not the “people’s representatives” in our government?  When Thomas Jefferson wrote about the separation of church and state he was not trying to put Christian compassion out of government.  When we can’t meet the needs individually or our churches won’t do it collectively then we followers of Jesus must encourage our government to do it in our place. I am proud of the U.S. taking our place in having pity on those in need.