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“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.’”
I had one of those experiences, last Thursday, which operates like a mirror held in my face, forcing me to look at myself and ask some hard questions. Don’t you just love those? I spent the day at the Legislative Workshop sponsored by the NC Council of Churches. From the Council’s website:
The North Carolina Council of Churches is a statewide ecumenical organization promoting Christian unity and working towards a more just society. The Council enables denominations, congregations, and people of faith to individually and collectively impact our state on issues such as economic justice and development, human well-being, equality, compassion and peace, following the example and mission of Jesus Christ.
I am so in love with this group! They are not just talking the talk; they are walking the walk! I heard speakers, and met people, who are “out in the trenches” working on various projects from legislative lobbying to sitting with grieving families of victims of gun violence in Durham – in their homes, in court, wherever they need support. They are living out their consciousness of who Jesus is and what he was about during his time on Earth. They are living out their understanding that the universal church’s primary raison d’etre is to continue the work necessary to fulfill his mission to “proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, [and] set the oppressed free.” These folks put to shame those Christians who feel they have done their duty and have done God a favor, in the process, by showing up at church on Sundays.
I wish I could adequately convey what it does for the quality of our lives to be actively engaged in doing something for God. I know; because I haven’t always been so engaged. But renewing my commitment to discerning and doing God’s will gave me a much-needed escape from my self-absorption and a sense of purpose that has become my driving passion. I am blessed to serve in a vocation that allows me to earn my living working in the church. Even so, I do not feel that I am doing enough. That’s because there are so many more of the last, the least, and the lost outside of the church than in. I believe that we, as the church, should definitely be spending at least as much time out there, with them, as we spend inside our safe, clean, sacred space each Sunday.
So I am on a mission – I am going to find my spot out there! I am going to get involved in some community-based organization or do some sort of volunteer advocacy work. I haven’t figured out precisely what yet, but I’ll let you know when I do. For me, it simply is not enough to go to church on Sundays, even counting the time I spend in preparation for that. It’s not enough to give time, talent, and treasure to the church solely for the purpose of sustaining ourselves. That strikes me as another form of self-absorption – our collective self-absorption.
I hear the call loud and clear. I hope that others hear it; particularly at Imani, because I would love to see us get more involved in serving people “out there” in the community. I would like to see us move beyond one or two people, consistently doing volunteer work, to all of us – as a congregation – committing to support something or someone outside of ourselves. I know we have financial concerns, etc. But I also know that being a blessing to others opens channels through which blessings flow right back to us. I am advocating for a shift of focus from going to church to being the church. I am calling on us to spend some time in holy conversation, prayerfully discerning where and how God wants to use us to make a difference in the lives of others. Where and how can we “proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, [and] set the oppressed free?” Where is our “spot” – that place, outside of our walls, where we can do something that Jesus would likely be doing, if he lived in Durham, NC today?
We are in relationship with God; and nobody likes one-sided relationships. God gives and does for us all the time. What have we done for God lately?