For the past five days I’ve been blogging about grief. Specifically grief over our brokenness that contributes to global poverty. I’ve been using this picture as a focal point. Meditating on the idea that “the poor” are often seen as broken yet we are …
When I was a teenager I went on a boat ride with my Aunt, Uncle, and younger cousin (she was around 4 years old). They were lived in Arizona and we were touring Lake Powell. It was a beautiful trip where I got to see a part of the country I’d never see…
Advent and Christmas reminds us that Jesus came to proclaim good news the poor and asked us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. It could be the holiness of the season that causes us to remember. It could be perhaps that the contrast to the abundance of season causes us to remember. Just as in this picture the contrast of the stump to the trees reminds us that not every one is equal in this world.
But what about the rest of the year? What can cause us to remember the poor when we don’t feel as holy or giving?
Let’s use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to focus on the issue of poverty and how the church should grieve and respond to our fellow people.
Scripture: Paraphrased above, Matthew 25:44-45 says: “Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” Not only did Jesus come to this world for the poor, he also asks us to care for the poor as well.
Tradition: Currently “Engaging in Ministry with the Poor” is one of the four areas of focus in the UMC. But the UMC has a rich history of missions dating back to Mission Societies in the 1820s. Ministry with the poor is considered a means of grace or a way to experience God in our lives.
Experience: Our experiences when we work with others transform us. We cannot deny that the world is broken and that there is an injustice in the quality of life differentials around us.
Reason: Studies show that the happiest countries in the world have higher life expediencies, social support, civil economy and subjective well being. Reducing poverty (even by broader definitions of poverty) leads to happier people.
Why then do we not grieve more over poverty? When will we repent? It is obvious what God is asking of us yet our world shows we are failing. How will we sit in the shadows, covering ourselves?
Until Everyone Hears,
Part of my doctoral work is to look at how certain attributes of Mindset (Carol Dweck’s work in book of same name) can lead us to personal and organizational growth. One of those attributes is accepting criticism as helpful feedback for improvement. Often when we hear criticism we get defensive and push back against it – remaining in a fixed mindset that leads us to remain as we are.
The optimist in me does this all the time. “We are not broken! We are doing well! We are helping our neighbor! Things are getting better!” While I believe my optimism is helpful at times, if I don’t step back an really look at the situation, we can’t move to the next stage in transforming the world.
The global issues in regards to poverty are heartbreaking. 1.2 billion people in the world are poor. Half of those are destitute. Most of them have to defecate in the open. Most have severe under-nutrition. Many have lost 2 or more children due to their poor conditions. (www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index) While most of the people in these categories live in South Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, my corner of the world is not immune.
There are many places in our community where we could improve the standards of living, work toward removal of poverty, grant access to dignified employment, and reduction of societal inequality. Even though our community has a “higher than national average” income level ($65k median per household) we also still have 12% of our community living below the poverty line. While that percentage is not quite as high as the national average the disparity of income levels creates a disconnect that further magnifies the societal inequalities.
While many pat ourselves on the back and cheer that we are “better than others,” who will speak for the 12%? Who will give them the voice they need and bring them to the table? The picture above represents our brokenness. I could have easily taken a picture of something around the subsidized housing complex that might give you a glimpse into the life of one of Coweta’s poor, but what I want you to focus on is that it is not the poor who need fixing. It is our brokenness that needs restoration. We need to find ways to work together to fix the systems (that we help to create) that are causing the problems. And we need to mourn that all is not right. Once we feel that and let it touch us deeply, then we can move on.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”
We’ve become dull and numb to this present situation. May we mourn our ignorance and grief our brokenness.
Until Everyone Hears,
We live in a broken world. Often when we (the privileged) think of the poor, we might think of them as this stump. Small compared to the rest of the trees. Living among them but in their shadow. Often we try to cover up that there are poor among us.But…
Meetings. Why do we dread them? What can we do about them? Are they really missional? In many corporate settings, meetings are the inevitable waste of time and energy. When they happen in the context of church people often feel one or more of the follo…
I love that my daughter still wants me to read her bedtime stories. Some days its the only chance I get to escape into my imagination and create new worlds that mirror ours.
The important parts of a good story always have a thread of truth – no matter how creative or fictitious the story is. This is one of the factors that made Jesus’ parables so effective. He spoke in a story people could understand but put the truth in the story as well.
Take the parable of the sower as an example. At first glance it seems like a story about gardening. But once you dig deeper (put intended) into who Jesus is, the story takes on a whole new meaning.
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
Typically I love to go to sleep with the sounds of crickets chirping. Its a very peaceful, soothing sound that comforts me an lulls me to sleep.
But then there are those times when the sound of crickets is awkward.
A few weeks ago I experienced one of those times. I was teaching the first session of a Bible Study at church and we were looking at the Great Commission. Matthew 28:16-20 – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Its one of my favorite passages. I asked the class if they knew what the mission of our church was and to my delight they could name the mission of the UMC perfectly! Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I should have stopped there. They’ll all aced that part. I shouldn’t have asked the next question but I felt like I was on a roll….
I asked, “How do we do that here? In other words – do you know our vision?”
It wasn’t peaceful. It wasn’t soothing.
The good news is that it wasn’t peaceful for the class either. They weren’t complacent that they didn’t know the mission. They were concerned. They wanted to be able to articulate why we do what we do. We spent the rest of the class listing things that we do to live out the mission. Even after getting a closer look at our vision they still seemed to be concerned that “transforming the world” is to big a job for us to do.
Transforming the world is too big a job for us to do…alone. But we aren’t alone. God is with us. The incarnational nature of our faith gives us a picture and an experience of God being with us. Our mission IS big -but it’s not bigger than our God. Its not too much for us to handle when we are walking with God and living into all that God calls us to be.
As I went to sleep that night I was comforted by the sound of crickets for another reason. They reminded me that not everyone knows the love of God like I do. And I get to get up everyday and transform the world with a God who transformed me.
Until Everyone Hears,
I recently went to a communications conference in Louisville, KY where I met some amazing people and stretched my brain to think about new ways to reach people. Usually at a conference like this I find that something I just discovered is already out of…