The Big Picture
The Serving Heart
What do you do with eight adults and three children while they wait their turn at the Outreach Center? For many years, many years, they stood and waited in the hallway inside the Randolph Street entry way. In recent years, a waiting Room was provided with sofas, chairs, cold water, air conditioning, and privacy. More recently, reading materials were provided, as well as a large table where volunteers give away unneeded possessions after clearing closets, basements et cetera. Our guests take away items like decorations, toys, glassware, jewelry, DVDs, curtains, tools, and so on, that they can use. For the little ones, a plastic children’s table and chairs were set up, and volunteers provided toys and coloring books for the youngest.
Recently the children’s toys began to disappear, apparently taken by our guests. So we posted a sign saying: “Please leave toys here so that our other guests may enjoy them,” and we replaced the toys. The next week the sign was gone and so were the toys.
Our responses to this varied. Some said indignantly that it was appalling how our guests could rob a church, especially one that is helping them with food and clothing. Others said we would have to increase member presence in that area to monitor our guests’ behavior. But the very ones who donated the toys said, “Economically, things must be getting harder, not better for them,” and, “With Christmas coming, they need toys for their kids.”
Our teams are still contemplating how to address this situation. But in a recent November church service, we prayed to God, “Keep your love alive in us and in our communities, so that we might bring hope to a suffering world.”
God’s love. So we try to understand, forgive, and keep addressing the needs of our suffering world. As Christians, we see the big picture, not just the latest aggravation. What we see is that God spoke to the first humans and to Moses, then sent numerous prophets over earth’s time; initially he gave us laws guiding us in living for the purpose we were created. Over and over again we ate the apple and broke the commandments.
When Jesus’s death and resurrection for our human sins became our only way to be reconciled with our creator, the Gospel of Love took precedence over the law. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). How do we do that? “Tend my sheep,” Jesus told Peter when Peter swore three times that he loved Jesus. (John 21:16).
The church has many big decisions to face in the coming years. We must re-evolve as a body of believers. Currently, Jesus’s example and words seem a good place to start. After Jesus’ resurrection, he told his followers: “All authority in heaven and in earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
What is Jesus calling us to do? Tell, show, and live God’s love in the world, convey the assurances of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and teach others by word and actions all what Jesus has taught us. We are not called to be a private social club, to construct buildings, to convert people to our group identity, to replace indigent people’s beliefs with ours, to make money, to look askance at those who speak, dress, love, worship or vote differently, or to judge anyone’s motives or value. We are to love because we are so loved. To tend the sheep around us, to forgive without ceasing, to be the kind, merciful and hopeful to all we encounter. No, it is not our nature. But it is for what we were created.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Food Pantry & Clothing Bank. The Food Pantry needs crackers, oatmeal, and cake and cookie box mixes. The Clothing Bank greatly needs blankets, sheets, towels, and mens shoes.
“The movement in our relationship is always from God to us. Always.
We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always
coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.”
—Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber