Saturday, March 3, 2012

40 Days with James ~ Day 11 ~ Choosing the Poor

Day 11 ~ Choosing the Poor
James 2:5-7  Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?
I recently heard about a sermon a friend of mine preached at the congregation where I served as a vicar (that is, as an intern pastor).  Just before the service started, a homeless looking man walked into the large sanctuary and sat right in the midst of the well-kept congregants.  He smelled bad.  He was constantly making little noises.  During the service, he took out a sandwich and started eating.  As the service progressed, those sitting in his vicinity slowly and slyly moved away.  By the time the sermon began, the man was sitting by himself.  The pastor then began to preach on how we treat those who come into our church and make us uncomfortable.  The "homeless" man was actually a local actor hired by the pastor to prove a point.  And it worked.

In our world we tend to categorize people in order to keep ourselves safe.  We stay away from those who fall in a different category from us.  In fact, we'll even demonize those in other categories just to justify our avoidance of them.  We'll leave the poor on their side of town and only associate with those who are in a similar socio-economic category as us.  For as loving as we like to think we are, we still avoid certain neighborhoods with "those" kinds of people.  We stay on our side of the tracks.

Such a worldly attitude has no place in the church.  Our God, after all, has chosen the poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith!  Faith is true wealth.  To try and turn the church into a place where the rich are honored and the poor are marginalized is to deny baptism, or as James says, to slander the noble name of Him to whom you belong.  We all share a common baptism where we are all marked with the name of the triune God.  We are all made co-heirs with Christ.  Here, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).    To insult the poor is to insult the One who baptized the poor alongside of you.  Here social status means nothing.  Christ is everything.

Repent:  Heavenly Father, I praise you that you have placed your name upon me in the waters of baptism and united me to your family, the church.  I confess, however, that I have looked down on my brothers and sisters for proud and self-righteous reasons.   I have not loved my neighbor as myself, and therefore, have not loved you with my whole heart.  Keep me in my baptismal grace, forgive me for my pride, and teach me to love all my brothers and sisters just as you have loved me in my poverty.  AMEN.

Respond:  Write a note to someone at church (besides the pastor) whose work you appreciate.  Thank them for their hard work.

Pastor Bob

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