This week we are going to look at how much we can keep, what we can have for our own pleasure and how we should respond to people in need.
Our scripture references are:
We will see you on Sunday.
May God be with you and may you make the time to hear Him treading alongside.
Tony tells the story of going to Haiti with his mission group, setting up a facility that will be a true sanctuary for children living on the streets there. These are the "throw away" children that no one wants nor cares for. He asked the local leaders how many children should they plan for and was told 50. Like a good North American church leader, he raised the money and made sure an excellent facility was built that could house, care for, teach and otherwise give life to 50 children. When he went to the middle of town with a bus for the city's children, over 200 appeared. He had to make the difficult decision on who could go to the facility and who would have to remain on the streets and return to a very perilous (and probably deadly) lifestyle.
We have too much stuff, Tony says. In fact, it is obscene what we have as a nation. It is so bad that we go into debt at Christmas just to give each other more stuff. His family now exchanges only gifts they have made. He gives poems, his children make things. It s a better way to live.
He tells of another time in Haiti where he was having dinner in a restaurant with another person and some of the local children were peering into the window watching the food and them eating. The waiter came by and pulled the blinds and remarked that he hoped they had not been disturbed by the children. He says that, of course he was disturbed. Disturbed at the all the stuff he sees at home and all that needs to be done elsewhere.
Stuff is pervasive. Children want things they see on TV, the stuff of popular teenage life. However, Tony reminds us that our stuff is not us.
How does a country with 5% of the world's population consume 43% of the world's resources to produce "stuff" no one needs?
But what about art and beauty? Some things that cost a lot of money are essential and beautiful. The world around us is beautiful- it is God's work. Some of the cathedrals of Europe- Notre Dame and Chartre are two wonderful examples- were built from the resources of the church at the expense, presumably, of feeding the hungry or doing other of God's work. Is this a waste of money? Can something like this be worth the money?
Remember, the disciples asked a similar question about expensive perfume being used to anoint Jesus' head (Matthew 26:6-13
) and that it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus said that the poor will always be around, but that He would be with them only a short time. This extravagance glorifies Him.
How does beauty play into the lives of the poor? We heard of a story where local artists were commissioned to paint a mural on the side of a drab, gray administration building. We learned of nuns who raised money to finance a symphony in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, among the poorest of the poor.
Does God approve of these things? Does God want our life to be boringly utilitarian or does God do things with a flair? How can we do it without being obscenely extravagant? How to respond to the needs of the poor and needy- sacrificially. We must bring extravagant joy to the people. Leviticus 25
tells of tithing for a party that God wants to throw for his chosen people.
How to help those that come to you, personally?
Are we all working on the same moral value? One of the participants spoke of giving blankets out to the children and the next day the same ones would show up for their blankets. What do you say to them?
"Hey, buddy, can you spare a dollar?" You know in your heart that that money will go to drugs or alcohol. Getting money out of your pocket may or may not even be safe. If you are approached by someone in need, asking for money, carry a packet of McDonald's coupons.
When the chips are down, give them the money. It is our responsibility to respond to their request. It is their
responsibility to use it in the way God wants them to.
An old spiritual says, "I been strugglin' so long, I must be alive."
Celtic Christians say that the walls between God and us are strong, but there are"thin places" where God can maybe break through. Have we found those places God has broken through?
Tony's convicting final comment is, "How much stuff can you keep without losing your soul?"