Wednesday, August 10, 2016


It was the last stop of the day on the last day of the summer for "SOS."  ("Sacks of Summer," or, "SOS" is a cooperative effort of five churches in our community committed to providing free lunches over the summer to kids who are on the free-lunch program in our local schools. We drive into three neighborhoods where public housing apartments are located and provide a sack lunch to each child (and often each adult) who make their way to our vans looking for food.  School begins next week and so this was our churches last day to deliver the meals.) I saw the mommy making her way toward us while she was still 50 yards away.  A little boy clung to her left hand, a little girl to her right.  I kept my eye on them as I continued to hand out lunches and tease with the kids who had already come to get food.  There was just something about this trio that grabbed my attention.  They had been around all summer.  They were not new to the neighborhood or to SOS.  But today I felt an urgency inside I had not noticed before.  As they drew near the little boy looked at me.  And then he saw the blue plastic sack in my hand.  I was somewhat startled as he immediately dropped his mother's hand and darted at full speed toward the food. He did not look at me.  He did not look at the Crayola's and coloring pages others were handing him.  His gaze remained on that sack the entire time.  I handed his sister a sack and I gave one to his mother as well.  I noticed she looked more hardened than usual today. Like she was just barely there.  I've never done this in the years I've gone on weekly SOS runs but I clearly felt a prompt to ask her, "Do they have anything to eat tonight?" She replied with the same "one thousand yard stare" in her vacant eyes ... "probably not."  I grabbed three more bags and gave them to her.  "Make sure they eat tonight."  No reply.  No recognition that I was even there. She took the bags and turned to go back to her apartment, her kids following behind her cradling the only food they would get for who knows how long.

I wish I could fix global poverty.  I cannot.  I wish I could fix the systemic breakdown of racial and economic inequities.  I cannot.  I wish I could cheer every lonely person and comfort every sick person.  I cannot.  I cannot cancel the effects of bad decisions made in countless households, much less countless political administrations. Those are things we have to do together.  And that is not my job.  What is my job?  What can I do all alone and with the families that I connect with at the church we call "The Tower?"  It isn't that hard.  And it is not at all confusing.  We can punch hunger, sickness, racism, and an abundance of issues in its proverbial nose right where we live.

Jesus said it this way, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’"  And the Bible tells us in the book of James, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Honestly, friends, I think we ought to make a huge stink about the mess that is going on in our world ... in our country.  I think each one of us should stand up and make our voices heard about the ridiculous situations propagated by countless politicians and a media run amok.  If we do not put a stop to it we will be held responsible by a Holy God.

But ... and this is a really HUGE but ... I have no time to listen to those who spout opinions and point accusing fingers, and threaten all sorts of bad things if they do not get their righteous way.  And I have no time for those who pretend to be holy and say (or post on social media) all of the right and approved thoughts and opinions and then do absolutely nothing except feel good about themselves for having taken a stand. 

I'm a pastor and people talk to me.  Somebody told me at the gym this week that they would like to please God but they had no idea what to do.  All I could say is ... "Are you kidding me?  Seriously?  Feed a kid!  Give clothes to somebody who clearly is in rags!  That will help restore a bit of their self-worth!  Go to a nursing home and pick a room ... ANY ROOM ... and spend just 30 minutes of your day talking to whoever is in it! Call a children's home ... I'll find one for you ... and call them up and ask what they need ... then provide it!  Find a widow or a widower on your street or around a corner and get to know them!  Tell them your family would like them to come to dinner ... and YOU PROVIDE IT. Do you need more ideas?  Call me after you do those if nothing works out and I'll give you more tips!" Did I really say that?  Yes.  Will they take my advice?  I seriously doubt it.  (They probably won't sit with me in the whirlpool after working out again either.)  But make no mistake ... that is PRECISELY what Jesus expects us to do.  I understand that some agencies do not like to work with churches because we just come in and deal with the immediate need and then move along. Yeah.  Well.  My friends at Southern Baptist Disaster Relief would like to talk to you. They served those stricken by Hurricane Katrina for FOUR YEARS.  And when they are done the Billy Graham Association needs to have a word.  Then Compassion International needs you to come by.  I think you get the idea.

So, anyway, I guess it just took a nasty social environment and a little hungry three year old to get me out of my blog hibernation.  The look I saw in his eyes isn't going to leave me anytime soon.  Let me just end this way.  My church and I ... we are not perfect.  Oh, no.  Far from it.  But we've got dirt under our fingernails.  We've got faces soaked in sweat from a hot summer afternoon of serving those Jesus told us to go look for.  Most people just have a sore throat from talking too much or sore fingers from typing too much.  Okay, fine.  But ... as for me and my house ...


The Dashboard Poet said...

I have been trying, for the past 6 weeks to get a bank to take a Sal. Army check for an elderly cancer patient's mortgage. The problem? The bank wants the entire balance put on 1 check. The client's paying a third, and we two thirds. The bank refuses. The real reason, I am sure, is that they want the property. This is outrageous and it is SYSTEMIC. Hunger comes in a wide variety of faces...the hunger in the belly of a child. Or the hunger in the heart of an elderly cancer patient who wants to die at home...but the bank wants the home. Yesterday I finally succeeded in getting to a VP who relented and agreed to take our two checks. When Jesus comes back there will no more hunger, of any kind. But you are right. The vast majority of "believers" who could do something do nothing. But let's be real...they don't because they won't...not because they can't. I find myself increasingly angry that there is a vast supply of resources. But it's being withheld by folks that already have every worldly luxury. But the Day is coming, isn't it, brother?