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Monday, August 3, 2015

Matthew 25:34-40, Introduction to The Least of These



"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

'Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

'The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'" (NIV).

Last week, my good friend Debby sent me a message after reading the following excerpt from the Church of the Nazarene Covenant of Christian Conduct:

"The Church of the Nazarene believes this new and holy way of life involves practices to be avoided and redemptive acts of love to be accomplished for the souls, minds, and bodies of our neighbors. One redemptive arena of love involves the special relationship Jesus had, and commanded His disciples to have, with the poor of this world; that His Church ought, first, to keep itself simple and free from an emphasis on wealth and extravagance and, second, to give itself to the care, feeding, clothing, and shelter of the poor and marginalized. Throughout the Bible and in the life and example of Jesus, God identifies with and assists the poor, the oppressed, and those in society who cannot speak for themselves. In the same way, we, too, are called to identify with and to enter into solidarity with the poor."

She described these words as beautiful, which they are, and then she went on to ask many provocative questions regarding how we are (or are not) living out these words as the Church.  I want to take some time to explore our relationship with "The Least of These," because I think it is critical to understanding who we are as followers of Jesus.

In an earlier post, I alluded to the fact that we were once discouraged from planting a church for the poor and marginalized, because the model was not financially sustainable.  It's not.  But there is something amiss when the Church begins to target people to whom to minister because of the size of their checking accounts.  I'm not going to pretend that finances are not an issue, but if money becomes the driving force behind a ministry, so much so that the poor are no longer welcome, we have a serious problem.

Over the next few weeks, I would like to turn the attention of "Ministry Mondays" to some personal narratives and practical ideas that we might put into place in order to show love to the least, as we have been instructed to do.

You can help by sharing your experiences!  Please feel free to add your voice to this conversation by sending your stories to lmichaels@nnu.edu.

L.

2 comments:

  1. I'm always so proud of our Kansas City Rescue Mission here. Joe Collaizzi, the long time director (and founder?) remarked at our recent district assembly that, while he believes his work is important, he wanted us to remember that our churches must not outsource our compassionate care to a compassionate ministry center like the KCRM. It is the responsibility of all of us to reach with compassion into our communities.

    At one former church, we had a sort of consortium for compassionate care in our small town. Every church sent a check (and sometimes volunteers), and the center managed its own affairs. While this could be quite efficient, I never really felt like this helped us connect in personal ways to the poor around us.

    By contrast, another local church had dozens of volunteers who made hot meals and delivered them on Thanksgiving day. My family assembled and delivered meals one year and found it tremendously rewarding.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this, Rich. I really believe that out compassionate ministry centers are doing important things, but I also agree that it is vital for our churches to connect to the poor around us. Sometimes I feel as if we have created this dichotomy where compassionate ministry is a place for us to keep the poor safely tucked away, out of sight. Oh, we'll care for them, but we don't want to look at them.

    I have essentially been told that this is the way it should be in the church. The poor have nothing to offer us, so they cannot be our "target group". Ministry to the poor is unsustainable in the church. If you want to minister to the poor, find another way to do it. This is distressing.

    So, I appreciate the people who are pouring their lives into compassionate ministries centers, and I sure hope they keep doing it, because it *is* necessary work, no doubt! But, I also would like to see the church catch a greater vision for ministering to the poor and making them a part of our communities.

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