I met my neighbor over the garbage cans this morning. We had pulled our respective cans to the end of our driveways and we stopped to catch up on our families, churches and the world. We talked about helping “the least of these,” and how people might be helped in good ways that do not perpetuate an entitlement mindset, but instead promote self sufficiency and preserve human dignity. It was a well spent five minutes! Now I wonder, how shall I live the truths of that conversation?
Five thoughts come to mind:
Our Men’s Grow Group Thursday morning Bible Study: Just the day before we had studied the parable in Matthew 25:31- 46 that involves the separation of the sheep and the goats and how Jesus declared, “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,[a] you did it to me.’” Our focus is not to be inward but to reach out to those who need food, shelter, clothing, and attention (kind words and actions). From there my mind wandered over to some members of our Missions Committee who sat down with the leaders of New Directions. (New Directions is the name for a huge multi site charity that aims to help homeless men, women and families return to productive lives. While they provide many opportunities, they also have expectations for those who receive their help. Their Facebook page frequently celebrates the residents’ achievements such as getting a job, a driver’s license, or in some cases, their own apartments.)
Max: I met Max this week in the surgical waiting room on the 4th floor at MUSC, where he is a certified Pet Therapy Dog. His person gave me his card, so I know that he is a goldendoodle who weighs 60 pounds and stands 21 inches tall. I petted him and he smiled at me. I don’t think Max has thought about the consequences of saying hello to people with his big brown eyes, but as he greeted people, the anxiety in that waiting room began to decrease. He is using what gifts he has to help people. Seems a pretty good example!
This past Wednesday (June 26) was moving day for UM churches and pastors. Today has been the first Sunday for some pastors and churches. It’s a difficult and careful time, as they learn how they will be in ministry together. Every church and every pastor are different, and they have to find their rhythm and way, but the goal is always to reach people in Jesus’ name!
Jason’s House – a large, wonderful ministry of the church. I thought about how many people have gifts and talents that they use to bless children and their families. For so many years, this ministry has touched lives, not just those of the children and their families, but of the social workers and those who contribute to this ministry. Who knows but that through the faithful giving of Jason’s House, someone’s faith and hope have been restored? So we struggle into leadership for another season. As George Jones once sang, “Whose gonna fill their shoes?” Elaine Paige has led this so efficiently and well, it seems daunting, but no one person has to do it all. We have at least one committed to being a part of leadership after 2020. We need more if we are to continue this ministry that truly blesses the least of these.
And so I thought of Elijah and Elisha. Today in church we read about Elijah’s mantle being passed on to Elisha. It is the text that inspired the spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Elijah ascended into heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by horses and chariots of fire, leaving Elisha standing there in awe. Elisha picked up the mantle that Elijah has left behind. In my mind’s eye, I can see Elisha there, holding the mantle, as the implications of Elijah’s ascension begin to become clear. He stands beside the Jordan River, and he wonders:
“Am I enough?”
Untested prophet on Jordan’s banks
The weight of the mantle in his hands,
Heaviness of possibility and authority
The eyes of the others are on him
He feels his own heart beating in great crashing thumps
A deep breath and then
He arcs the mantle in the air
It touches water
Dry Ground revealed
Path to the future
“Am I enough?” is a question many of us wonder. Can I really do what God has called me to do? If the journey is of God, you will be enough to fulfill God’s purposes. Remember Ephesians 2:10? “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”