Courage to Confront Poverty’s Persistent Presence

Each month at Sanctuary (both in the church and in the CDC) we are given a Day Alone With God.  We affectionally refer to this prized benefit as our DAWG.   Frequently we use this day for personal retreats, reading, reflecting, listening, even isolating ourselves to strip through the noise of life to better hear the voice of God.  As an ADHD kind of guy I usually find mental clarity in physical activity; running, biking, or walking – when the body is moving the mind can focus.  It is an important time for me to reconnect with Jesus’ mission in this world and my calling to him.

  • Jesus went into the synagogue  and opend the scroll to Isaiah and began to read  … Luke 4: 18- 22 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.  And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.  And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Today I began my DAWG with a bike ride to Washburn High School with my daughter Morgan (8mi) then stopped by a coffee shop for some reading and then to the shores of Lake Harriet.  I was surrounded by some of the most impressive homes in Minneapolis.  However, my day was punctuated by poverty’s persistent presence.

I’m reading a book by a Honduran peasant woman, who worked to organize farmers in the 70’s and 80’s to have land to farm.     She wrote, ” I don’t think God says, “… go to church and pray all day and everything will be fine.”  No!  For me God says, “Go out and make the changes that need to be made, and I’ll be there to help you.”

  • Matthew 25:44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

Then I got a phone call an immigrant friend of mine has the opportunity for some good summer work, but first needs to secure an insurance policy for personal liability, not a bad thing, but a huge barrier if you have little or no money to start.

  • Matthew 25: 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

I glanced at the local newspaper and the headline declared “Chippewa to Fish Early in Treaty Clash” .  The governor says he’ll have them arrested, even though 1855 treaties and a 1999 Supreme court decision promised to protect these rights.

  • Matthew 5: 33 & 37 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, …. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

When I stilled myself I could only hear the voices of those struggling for justice and suffocating under poverty who watch the wealthy waltz on through life.

Maybe we all,  rich, poor, and in between,  want to do good but are stuck in systems that we either lack the to power to change, lack the vision to see,  or lack to courage to confront.

  • Luke 19: 8-9 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
  • Matthwe 25: 34 – 40 “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, …….     “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Jesus pronounced “salvation has come into this house”, He makes the invitation to the kingdom,  not based on doctrinal ascent – but actions of justice and compassion.

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