The Least of These…… Who are They?

Just Thinking…… th-4 They walk among us.  They are here…. and now…..  They make us uneasy.  They are a problem.   Sometimes they are invisible.  Sometimes they are seen too much.  Sometimes they make no sounds. Sometimes they are horribly noisy.  They don’t fit in.  They make messes.  They are awkward.  We want them to go away.  They are…….. The Least of These.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:40)

And that got me thinking about church: a place where my brothers and sisters in Christ come together.  Who is the least of these in church?

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Although being Christian, being a born again believer in Jesus is the glue that binds us into the concept of “church,” we are made up of many different minorities.  For example, we have both men and women.  We have the elderly, the boomers, the young parents, the teens, the kids, the babies.  We have white, black, hispanic, middle eastern, and oriental.  We have the bright and the  unintellectual.  We have those who are wealthy, those who are of average wealth, and the poor.  We have those with healthy emotional and mental states, and those who do not have these.  We have the educated and the uneducated.   We have the computer literate and those who don’t own a computer.  We have those who can sing on key, and those who make a joyful noise.  We have some who can cook, and some who can’t. Some are in wheelchairs or use walkers or canes or crutches, and many who walk with no problem.  We have those who can see well, and those with a sight handicap.  Same with hearing.  We have rural folks and town folks.  We have the shy and the life of the party. This list could go on for many more pages, but you probably get the picture. Everyone fits into one minority or another.  (And  you probably understand by this point that I am not talking about one particular congregation; this describes churches everywhere.  You may see yourself in this list.)

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So with all this in mind, here’s the question:

Which of these shall we leave out of church?  

  • Shall we lower the lights for dramatic effect….. and leave out those with poor vision?
  • Shall we have steps into the church…. and leave out those who can’t climb steps?
  • Shall we send out all announcements and prayer requests via email….. and leave out those who don’t have computers?
  • Shall we sing only higher pitched classical music….. and leave out those who can’t stretch to the higher notes?
  • Shall we sing only the latest  tunes….. and leave out those who yearn for hymns?
  • Shall we only have church in one building….. and leave out the homebound and the ones in nursing homes?
  • Shall we only have church at one time….. and leave out those who must work at their job during that time?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from the King James…. and leave out those who struggle with this older language?
  • Shall we read all Scripture from a contemporary version…. and leave out those who love the beauty and cadence of the older version?
  • Shall we back up prayers with a musical backdrop….. and leave out those with a hearing handicap?
  • Shall we place only the  young mothers in the nursery…..  or only the older women……and leave them out of worship?
  • Shall we not even have a nursery…… and discourage all the young parents and leave the babies out of their first church experiences?
  • Shall we put those who speak a different language…. or no language…. or a peculiar language of their own in the back out of sight….. or sit with them and leave our comfort zones?
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I don’t know the answers to these questions.  I’d like to give a formula for perfection, but I can’t.  All I know is that I need to actively search for the answers.  I do wonder about preconceived notions.  I ponder a seeming selfishness in wanting things to be “my way” without regard to the needs of others.  I worry about those who seem to be invisible and silent, so no one sees them or pays attention to their needs.  I worry about the church being blind and deaf. In an ideal, perfect world, what would the church look like?  How would it function?  Would the least of these be cared for?  Would somehow each one fit into the church?  Is there a place for every believer?

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  (Matt. 25:41-45)

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The least of these are among us.  They may not be the hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison, but they are the overlooked and ignored in our churches.  What shall we do to include them and nurture them?

Father….. Forgive me for the times that I did not pay attention to the least of these.  Open my eyes to how I need to help others be fully within the church body.  Give me direction and boldness and courage and wisdom to do Your will. Forgive us for overlooking the needs of others….. the least of these.

To God Be The Glory…..

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Spiritual Heritage

Just thinking….

I have a scrapbook down in my craft room which I made during a special Bible study class years ago. The idea was to create and preserve the story of our spiritual journey, and it would become a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

I had never done much scrapbooking, but this appealed to my creative side. I’m so glad that I took the class. My book contains my spiritual heritage from my grandparents and parents, and also continues through my marriage and to my children and grandchildren. It covers my time of believing, of growing in faith, and of my times of learning.

The memory of that book came back to me today during church. The pastor was referencing Judges, and how Israel went through cycles of decline and regeneration. The truth, of course, is that it is not just Israel. I as an individual go through these cycles, as does society. I have a note in my Bible: “We are just one generation away from being a pagan nation.” So terrifyingly true…..

“When we become complacent, tolerant, accommodating, the world will win. We will be adopting other gods and living in immorality.” (Pastor Jim Rightler)

I have been blessed. I knew my great grandfather; I think he was born in the 1850’s. I knew all four of my grandparents for over half of my life. (We always joked that we came from a family of long livers…). I’m almost 63 and still have both of my parents. And then I go the other direction to the generation of my son and of my grandchildren. Right there I have had direct contact with 6 generations. And if God wills, I will someday know my great grandchildren, the 7th generation.

So what is the influence here? My great-grandfather knew God. I didn’t spent much time with him, but we knew that he was a believer. My grandparents were believers. Knowing the Word, going to church, prayer….. all were a common part of their lives. My parents are Christian, and their faith is apparent, even as they live out these difficult days of their old age. The impact of all these folks is not lost. They have taught me well, and I will forever be grateful.

But….. if I become complacent about sin, tolerant of sin, and accommodating of sin, then the next generations will lose.

Scripture says of the Israelites: “Everyone did as he saw fit.” If evil was done, it was reasoned away, explained in logical terms, excused. And then it became the norm. I shudder to think of aspects of our culture and society today that my grandchildren think are the norm.

I believe that our human tendency is to worship something. I have chosen to worship Jehovah God. But I know how easy it is to slip into worshipping my possessions, my intellect, and so forth. If any of these are placed before God, then I am worshipping them. Shame on me!!! How do we as society move from worship of God to worship of almost anything else? Perhaps it begins when we don’t tell our children the stories anymore of who God is and what He has done. Perhaps it is accelerated when our children see us doing things or saying things that are antithesis of what we claim to believe. Perhaps it is when a Sunday soccer game takes precedence over family worship time. And the list can trail on and on…..

Not all blame can be placed on the previous generations. Each person is responsible for his or her own decisions and actions. I could have had a godly heritage and still made stupid and sinful decisions that stopped the benefit right there. And folks who came from terrible homes can make the choice to not continue in that path; they can break the destructive cycle and start anew. But the fact remains that we still are to pass on our faith to our children and grandchildren. It’s never too late to do the right thing.

My scrapbook testifies to that.

Father,
I am so grateful for the blessing of a faith-filled family. I pray for Your strength to not stop there, but to keep on passing the legacy to my child and grandchildren. It’s vital; it’s critical for them to know You, just as past generations have known you.
To God be the glory….
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We are in our new home….

Just thinking……

We have been in our new home now for two weeks as of today. I am somewhat homesick for our old place and community and church. But I keep telling myself that God has been in control of this entire move; He has never let us down, and He always has the best plans laid out for us. Strange…… it’s not that I really am doubting God, but I sometimes dwell on what I had versus where I am now. Am I like the Hebrew people longing for cucumbers of Egypt?

Last night, I dreamed that we went back to our old home. The new owners were having a party and invited us in. The place was unrecognizable. I could not find my beautiful kitchen and the entry was all different. We stayed at the party for a while, and then left. In a way, this was a liberating dream, letting me let go a little.

Although I miss my wonderful custom designed home, I miss the people even more. We had such wonderful relationships with so many co-workers, neighbors, and church members. We knew so many, and so many knew us. We could count on people being there for us. Now we know no one except for family. It’s weird to walk into store and not recognize a soul. We have to completely start over establishing our reputation as being honest law-abiding citizens, and set up a web of trusted contacts. It will take time……
Meanwhile I cherish the emails and phone calls from old friends, and the letter from a friend that was waiting for us in the mailbox when we arrived. Our former pastor came to see us, and prayed for us as we settled into our new home.

Church is an important part of our lives, but we are finding it a difficult decision about where to worship. We are used to larger churches (although size really doesn’t matter). But it seems so odd to be in a city that is 5 times larger than the one we left, and yet hardly anyone goes to church. The churches are small, maybe 25 in attendance??, and the one we tried was rather cold. We went there for Ss, Church, a special occasion, and Wednesday night. One person spoke to us. The Sunday School class for adults was a lecture for anyone between 18 and death, whereas, we were used to a small groups who shared and prayed and studied the Word. We are used to vitality in our worship, and here it seems one heartbeat from death. We were used to people being very excited about going to church, and there doesn’t seem to be excitement here, but rather a ho-humed-ness. So our prayer is: where does God want us to worship and serve? I have no doubt that He WANTS us to worship and serve; we just don’t know where.

The weather is colder up here, the prices are higher, and the house was not clean when we moved in. Gripe gripe gripe…..

On the plus side (and yes, there is a plus side), we are near family, and the grandkids have been here helping us put books and toys away. I also landed a job teaching two classes for the local college, so that is a plus, and it is two classes that I really enjoy. We have a lovely home with so much space and nicely decorated. So God has been good to us, and has provided so much.

The unpacking has been going slowly, and we are not finding things that we are sure we owned! Plus we are finding things that we have no memory of owning, or things that make us wonder why we ever thought we had to own them. It’s been, well, uh….. slow…….

But this is where we are. Father, point us in the right direction. Guard our paths and direct our days. Amen.

To God be the Glory…..
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Published in: on October 3, 2009 at 5:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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