Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pastoral Prayer: Where We Look and Where Jesus Calls Us To Look

given at Trinity Reformed on 11.23.2008; inspired by Matt 25:34-46 and Doug Hagler's Mission Prayer over at Progressive Nostications.

I operate on the assumptions that there is no such thing as secular and there is no such thing as coincidence. I’m really into synchronicity or what the Catholic’s call Serendipity: things happening for a reason. I try to be attuned to the ever transmitting divine and see the world as illuminated. I think that’s what the text today is saying. Jesus is also directing our attention to places we wouldn’t and don’t want to look, namely the poor and hungry. With this in mind, let us pray:

God of nations and of peoples and of missions, it’s always a little jarring to learn there might be some distance between your mission and ours. We think we may have it right, that we’re doing a great job, but then you remind us where to look.

You remind us of the sick, the poor, the homeless. You never said to help them because they’re kind-hearted, or because they think rationally, or because they’ll understand and turn their lives around to live ones resembling ours. No… We want to out into the world bearing the truth, teaching others how they should live, what they should believe, giving and helping to show our generosity, and then returning home, content.

But that’s not what you; Jesus our Christ, would have us do. Yours is a larger mission, larger than us and all we can do. We go out and find You already there Your mission has begun, You are doing a new thing, going out into the world ahead of us. We meet You in outsiders, in strangers, in those we thought were only there to receive from us but it is we who receive and once again you are made strange and wonderful, not the domesticated God we carry out into the world but the true God we encounter already at work. You invite us to join You in Your mission which is already turning the world around.

Help us see you and response as you would, oh God. Guide us into a world that resembles the words your Son gave us when he said, OUR FATHER….

13 comments:

sally said...

How do you deal with the reality of limited resources and the increasing demand for assitance in this damaged economy? As much as we'd like to say "yes" to everyone how do we respond when there's $100 worth of need and $10 in the coffer or a need from a family that is "trying" or one from a known substance abuser?
Your thoughts?

Luke said...

my whole life has been dealing with limited resources! only now i have $15 instead of $10 in the coffer so I feel like a rich man. ;-)

but growing up the way i did, where i did, has taught me many things. i haven't had to make the choice yet to decide to assist one family or another, so i don't know how to respond. are you speaking out of current context or just hypothetical?

Sam said...

I think Sally's question has an assumption built in. Is the only assitance the church has to give just money? There is a book called "God's Economics" which says that God's economy is not based on scarcity but on abundance. This by no means over looks the problem of infinite human needs and wants, in a world of finite resources. Instead it re-evaluates and places our focus off of monetary help and back onto grace and love and psychological assistance.

I think this is the better approach.

societyvs said...

"As much as we'd like to say "yes" to everyone how do we respond when there's $100 worth of need and $10 in the coffer or a need from a family that is "trying" or one from a known substance abuser?
Your thoughts?" (Sally)

I think if the church functioned as a true community - there would be less questions about the resources...seek to make your church a community.

Thing is we cannot overlook people's needs - namely if they are asking for help. Not everything is solved with money - but sometimes with personal involvement.

Families that try - need to be supported by the whole community - not just leadership - so that they are welcomed into the community and everyone helps alleviate the burdens of their fellow sojourner.

A known substance abuser does not neccesarily need money - but actual help with their condition. Now if we are talking about someone in the community - we have to approach them and try to get them some help (or see that need).

If we are talking about someone that asks for money outside a 7-11 - I usually give. I really don't know that person and the conditions they are struggling with - so what more can I truly do? It takes quite a bit to ask people for change all day - I feel some special concern for these people. If we know of services they can access (great - give them that also)...but if we do not - I see little problwm with giving what they asked for.

Tit for Tat said...

Not everything is solved with money - but sometimes with personal involvement.(societyvs)

I echo this. I know many of my issues dont deal with money, they deal with how I relate to it. We can all make money or lose it, but if we dont have the personal skills or character to deal with both sides of that coin, well look out, trouble is just around the corner. We all need to develop better community and life skills. Love of self first, love of community next and then gratitude to the creator for helping point us in the right direction.

PS. Extra credit for staying on that road. lol.

Sally said...

Luke said "are you speaking out of current context or just hypothetical?"
Oh I'm SO speaking in current context! As you know, our new church also started a Thrift Shop and Food Pantry and our requests for assistance are dramatic!


societyvs said "Thing is we cannot overlook people's needs - namely if they are asking for help. Not everything is solved with money - but sometimes with personal involvement."

YES! That's our model. Tell us what your perceived need is and we will see if we have a service or referal that matches it...then we'll share [not clobber] Christ with as many as possible. Meeting the physical need only opens the door for spiritul care. This is often where the folks who emphasize social justice messages and I come apart. I think social justice causes are important to the kingdom when they clear the way for the message of Jesus.
The message is WE care and GOD cares...powerful stuff!!

Tit for Tat said...

Tell us what your perceived need is and we will see if we have a service or referal that matches it...then we'll share [not clobber] Christ with as many as possible.(Sally)


I sometimes wonder if the real point Jesus was trying to make was to just treat others with Love and Dignity and that would point to God. Im not so sure we need to share a "message about Christ". I think in the act of giving you did it, and I think thats enough.

Sally said...

Tit for Tat said " I think in the act of giving you did it, and I think thats enough."

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. That's what I meant by no clobbering. Some folks are not interested, open or ready to hear anything beyond the allivation of their suffering and that's fine. It's important to be sensitive and not to push but it's also important to be available if they want to talk or listen. Jesus
Of course the old adage is true...Tell people about Jesus, use words if you have to.

Luke said...

"This is often where the folks who emphasize social justice messages and I come apart. I think social justice causes are important to the kingdom when they clear the way for the message of Jesus." -Sally

you know i'm going to jump on this! but then you beat me to the punchline which was going to be "Tell people about Jesus, use words if you have to." so then i had to step back and consider... which is a great thing!

I tend to do good, not out of fear of punishment nor for the spread of the Gospel, but just for the sake of doing it! If people inquire then i respond "I try to follow the boss' example" or "Jesus said "HELP" he never said to expect anything in return." or even "Jesus never said it would be easy, just that it would be worth it."

If people are hurting, hungry, poor and oppressed, I simply help. If they continue on a self-destructive path w/o Christ, then i knock the dust from my Adidas and go onto the next.

Foodbanks are hard things... if i had to give stuff out, i would have no problem handing out until it was spent regardless who showed up. I'm not called to judge only to help. but if there is an unequal distribution, that's where to focus to try to help as many as you can. i would say the known substance abuser would be at the top of my list to give things to, but s/he wouldn't be the only one on that list.

Sally said...

Oh Luke, you keep thinking that we're far apart in our ideologies but no...
There wasn't one thing you said that really made me squirm...I totally agree with giving till it's gone although so far it's never been completely gone. Just about the time we think it will be something else shows up!
I agree that we shouldn't "expect" anything in return but my hope is for their ETERNAL life not so much this life so even though I give with no expectation my hope is that through the gift they will hear God speaking and respond to him/her....not to me.
Time to make the turkey...Thanksgiving is today for my family. I'm thankful for YOU!!

Tit for Tat said...

I agree that we shouldn't "expect" anything in return but my hope is for their ETERNAL life not so much this life so even though I give with no expectation my hope is that through the gift they will hear God speaking and respond to him/her....not to me.(Sally)


Im sure you mean well, but do you realize how arrogant and condescending this sounds. Its like you have a direct phone to the creator of the universe and its telling you that peoples ETERNAL life is in jeopardy and you need them to get them to hear the message of redemption. UCK. This is what turns people off religion, the "absolute knowledge" other people claim to have. Treat people with respect, help them in their areas of need, love them when you can, and if that doesnt point out that your faith is worthwhile, nothing will.

Luke said...

"Oh Luke, you keep thinking that we're far apart in our ideologies but no..." -Sally

nah, i just think how we say it is the only difference ;-) I'm thankful for you as well have a blessed turkey-ween!

"Im sure you mean well, but do you realize how arrogant and condescending this sounds. Its like you have a direct phone to the creator..." -T4T

we all have direct phones to the Creator, we just have to realize it! this is the main reason why i'm not Catholic, as i don't believe we need intercessors (they help, sure!) but we ourselves can approach the divine because part of the divine is within.

as for the escatalogical hope of the after-life, yeah, that's always hard to convey that hope without sounding like there's some secret handsake you gotta know to get in. this is my hope as well, but it's not always in focus for me, whereas other Christians need that focus at all times and in all things that they do. i'm not sure why, but i feel it has something to do with the different Theological Worlds we inhabit.

Luke said...

oh! listening to Radiolab this morning (my proof that there is a God!) and low and behold a God-incidence! (my other proof that there is a God ;-))

found in Egypt in a trash heap, an unknown saying of Jesus was found. "Woe to the man who knows the eternal truth but does not know himself."