All are welcome

Literacy of Faith: Intercede!

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[g] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

INTERCEDE!

Again, when this word was chosen to explore today, the fact that Veteran’s Day was this past week never entered into our thoughts. And then, the extra, bonus was two of the most service oriented people I know, Jeanne Tayloe and Susan Sage were celebrated yesterday as they legally married after 42 years of life together as one union.

For me, these are God-moments or moments that tell me there is something far greater than I that moves the cosmos and orders the time and days.

Intercede – working on the behalf of others. to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.

Sometimes we think it takes superheroes to act. It seems at times that our world is so broken that whatever we might do would be in vain and that only a superhero with fantastic powers is able to act.

As I did last night, I lift up Jeanne and Susan. As one of you said, it is just normal for them to go the second mile. To give a lift to someone who needs a ride, to sort food out of a truck for the Hunger Coalition, to sweep floors or wash dishes at FARM Café. And yes, they are retired with more time on their hands than those among us with 40, 50, 60 hours jobs. And, when have you seen or heard of a need and thought, I can’t help them. Well, could you have in some small way?

As we have looked at what we know, what we understand, what we believe these last few months – that is the Literacy of our Faith – let’s remember where we have come…….

  • Rituals – those day to day things that shape our lives, that become habits or disciplines – does even the thought of interceding for others appear on your radar?
  • What sets us free or knowing Freedom? You can offer someone a taste of freedom through relationship. We actually explored that day how we understand or make sense out of scripture through reason, tradition, experience and our ancient texts. You might just have a word or an understanding that would open up a whole new world for someone.
  • What is Church? I likened it to Family as parts of my family were joining us that Sunday for my installation which also celebrated the gathering of the larger Church. Interceding is easiest through this avenue. We participate in food drives, coat drives, shoe drives, school supply drives to just begin the list. Church and intercession go hand in hand.
  • Praise! was next as we were challenged with praising in times not so easy to praise. Where do you find praise in hunger, folks in prison and folks cold and alone?
  • Remember! We remembered those who have gone before us teaching us, leading us, by their examples and faith, we learned. The question we left with was – How will you be remembered? As a sheep or a goat? One who offers to others what might give them hope for one more day?
  • Confess! And then last week, after another election cycle had ended, we explored who and what we confess to be. If we say that we are a Church of extravagant welcome, a community of faith that wants love and compassion to go out to all and to make a positive difference, well, what are we doing in this regard with those whom we feel are in direct opposition to us? Are we willing to sit down for THOSE and attempt to have civil discourse?

Today – we are at Intercede!

Love Wins is a ministry of pastoral care and presence for folks in Raleigh, NC. Their whole ministry is not at all about programming. It is about relationship and face-to-face contact.

Is this what scares us at times?

If I offer to sit down and listen to their story, or even hear a bit about them, will they just ask for more things and make me feel more shame?

I believe that here in the Church we have done a disservice too many times setting up ministry as a guilt trip. You should do this and this and this and if you aren’t, well, you just aren’t living up to the expectations of this calling.

For me this is the challenge that we have to face each and every day. We have to KNOW ourselves well enough to know when we are doing what we can where we can. At this point, we have to know that we can not fix it all, do it all, solve every need and feed every mouth. Boundaries are real, necessary and life giving. Understanding and living within a set of boundaries is the tough part of the road.

Sometime we set them too tight, too strict which keeps us ultra safe. Some of us need to expand our boundaries just a bit for growth and a new perspective. We have gotten in a rut and don’t know how to get out.

Mark Robinson is the director and minister who leads the Center for Creative Conflict Resolution in Clayton, Missouri. He said to me as I returned to seminary one Fall, “I have made a conclusion about why we don’t engage when we should at times. It’s because we don’t believe in the resurrection after crucifixion?”

Many of us live with abundance. Abundance of food, clothes, books, space, time….abundance.

Poverty isn’t a choice most of the time. What keeps us from seeking out our neighbor, the stranger and finding out their story? What keeps us from seeking out opportunities to meet others face to face to find ways to meet their specific needs?

That’s the agencies job – Right? That’s where our tax dollars go – to fund those agencies – Right?

Right.

And the gaps are getting larger.

Here are some challenging thoughts…

If I offer my extra bedroom that sits empty to one who needs it just until they can get on their feet, in that time, they might rob or rape me.

If I offer to begin my day earlier to give a lift to someone without means of transportation, my gas bill will just get larger.

If I show up at one of the food distributions and engage someone there to hear their story and find out how I might can find ways to do justice, they will over exaggerate the story.

Tamara, I have helped and helped until I can’t help any longer. They make bad decisions. They max out their credit cards buying junk and extraneous stuff they didn’t need, they lost it all on meth and cocaine and booze. What about those people who are just trying to get a free ride?

We hear this don’t we ……

Fair enough. That’s truth. A response might be, if we only intercede for those who deserve it, we will never intercede at all.

If God only interceded with those who deserve it, God would not intercede for any of us. From God’s point of view, we are all equally deserving, or undeserving.[1]

So the next time you feel God can’t use you, that you don’t have what it takes in this scenario – remember that first it is about relationship and then…..

Just remember…….

Noah was a drunk,

Abraham was too old,

Isaac was a daydreamer,

Jacob was a lair,

Leah was ugly,

Joseph was abused,

Moses had a Stuttering problem,

Gideon was afraid,

Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer,

Rahab was a whore,

Jeremiah and Timothy were too young,

David was an adulterer and a murderer,

Elijah was suicidal,

Isaiah preached naked,

Jonah ran from God,

Naomi was a widow,

Job went bankrupt,

John the Baptist ate bugs,

Peter denied Christ,

The Disciples fell asleep while praying,

Martha worried about everything,

The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once,

Zacchaeus was too small,

Paul was too religious,

Timothy had ulcers,

And Lazarus was dead.

[1] Clark, A., Hagler, D., and Larson, N., Never Pray Again: Lift your head, unfold your hands, and get to work (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2014), page 86.