Monday, October 25, 2010

Everything You Are

Last night I attended a musical praise event at Barratt’s Chapel. Composer John Thompson and his group “The Reminders” sang a new song with words that ring so true:

If you really want to praise Him then don’t wait till Sunday morning
He can hear an “Alleluia” in the choices that you make
Everything you do can be act of worship
Everything you are can be a song of praise

When all of life is praise we live like Easter people….celebrating life in the midst of a world of death and complaining. When we live like that people can see Jesus in us. It stands out as a beacon of light. I saw a store checker waiting on a very difficult customer in the line ahead of me. The checker was extremely kind and patient to the customer who was mean and unreasonable. In the end the transaction was complete to the customer’s satisfaction (after the checker complied with the customer’s demands with kindness). I gave God the glory for that checker as she was Christ in that food store.

And you can tell people about what Jesus means to you too. Live Jesus but witness to him too. Richard Foster writes “It becomes easy in our sophistication to miss the simplicity of inviting people to Jesus Christ. We do not need elaborate plans or erudite speeches. We need only love.”

Be the love of Christ and tell about it. It’s that simple.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eliminating Poverty

One of the four denominational “Foci” is “Ministry with the Poor.” For the past two days I attended a “Poverty Summit” in Harrisburg that was sponsored by the “United Methodist Advocacy PA” organization (formerly “UM Witness”). This group is a voice for justice issues that come before the state legislature in Harrisburg. The three United Methodist Conferences in the state of PA all support this effort. The information shared at this forum was practical and timely. These are difficult economic times for everyone and those who are poor are hit even harder and the suffering is enormous. In the United States our poverty levels are considered wealthy when compared to our sisters and brothers in developing countries.

Speaker after speaker stressed the same themes:

1) The existence of poverty is a spiritual issue. People of faith are called by God to respond to the human needs of others. It takes faith to sacrifice ones means for the poor and only when we trust God to take care of us when we “give ourselves away” are we able to give as we should.

2) Personal contact with people who live in poverty is vitally important. These are real people, not just numbers. It is easy to ignore a number, to stereotype people in poverty or to even judge people as deserving of their circumstances. When you take the time to get to know people and learn their stories and share their life it is a blessing for everyone. Likewise when we advocate for the needs of the poor we need to personally know state officials and leaders who make decisions about the distribution of wealth so as to have a greater influence on their votes.

3) Networking is the key to success in eliminating poverty. We need to work with other churches, civic groups, schools, community organizations, and individuals to accomplish the task. Each group has resources that the other needs.

Here are some websites that can help you and your church as you address the needs of people who live in poverty in your area: (PA Council of Churches has an excellent training program) (Information about the “Circles” initiative that empowers people who live in poverty and pairs them with community advocates) (Resources to equip educators) (can show you how to coordinate a “Poverty Simulation” event in your community …this is a teaching tool) (The United Methodist site that keeps PA people aware of legislative concerns and is also a clearing house for information on poverty)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roma People: reach out to people who the world would prefer to deport

Recently the news has shown stories about the deportation of Roma People from France. Roma people, sometimes known as gypsies are a heterogeneous ethnic group who live in South and Eastern Europe. This people date back more than a thousand years and have come from northern Africa. The people of France have been paying Roma people money to go back to their home countries and it has been a controversial and difficult situation.

I am happy to say that the United Methodist Church in Europe is reaching out to the Roma people in ministry and mission. In Hungary they have started Roma churches and last year the first Roma pastor was ordained. Besides worship there is a great deal of social work, literacy training, home economics and agriculture taught at the churches. They have their own song books and style of worship. One of their songs is entitled “I am Proud to be a Roma and a Christian.”

I am grateful to be a part of a denomination that reaches out to people who the world would prefer to deport. We are doing good work in the name of Jesus. Please pray for their ministry and look around for people in your community that people would rather not have around. Reach out to them and include them in your ministries.