Month: November, 2012

SERMON: Sola Gracia (Charlie Masters at St. George’s Anglican)

This is Charlie Masters’ Nov. 18 sermon at St. George’s Anglican Church – right after Charlie was elected Coadjutor Bishop for ANiC.  Wonderful sermon on the theme “Grace Alone” – do listen!

Sola Gracia (Charlie Masters | St. George’s Anglican)

For Ye Have The Poor Always With You

My daily devotional is focusing this week on the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-23).  Today’s thoughts were focused on how we allow the “thorns” in our lives – “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” – to distract us from serving the Lord.

A good and timely message, but I did notice one thing: the message seemed to be aimed FROM the well-off TO the well-off.  The unspoken assumption was “Of course you have enough money for your needs, but you think you don’t have enough because you keep confusing ‘I want it’ with ‘I need it’.”

What’s wrong with that?  Simply the unspoken assumption that all of the Christian who are following this devotional are in fairly easy monetary circumstances.  “After all, WE don’t have any poor people in OUR church!”

I beg to differ!

I live in a small community in south-central BC.  It’s not a thriving community; there aren’t a lot of jobs (barring jobs for truck drivers, forklift drivers, and other “skilled trades” jobs), and there are a lot of seniors, many of whom moved here because housing prices are lower than they are in the big cities like Vancouver and Victoria.

I attend a small church.  Many of the members are seniors, and many are poor – even desperately poor.  For us (at 60 years old and only employed part-time, I definitely fall into the “senior” and “poor” groups), the seed of the Word isn’t in danger of being choked by riches.  It IS in danger of being choked by fear, troubles and struggles – yet interestingly enough, most of the members of my church, including the poorest, are fervent in their love of the Lord and really do “give until it hurts”.

This isn’t just a small-town problem, either.  The big cities across Canada harbour far more of the desperate poor than they do of the complacent well-off.  And, I suspect, regular church attendance includes large numbers of the poor.

Here’s what CLIC (Community Low Income Centre, in Weyburn Saskatchewan) says about “What Is Poverty?”:

Poverty is more than not having the discretionary income to meet one’s basic needs of living – going without enough good quality food, being homeless or living in inadequate or unsafe housing,  or not having transportation.  It is also about the inability to participate more than marginally in community life –e.g., to meet the costs of school activities, sports, or celebrations.  Poverty is about the indignities of having to depend on the assistance of others without being able to reciprocate equally and the lack of power to make life choices, big and small, independently.

What about the churches you are familiar with?  Do they make that unspoken assumption that “most” people are well off?  Do they sponsor faith-building events that “only” cost $50, or $100, or $500 to attend?  Do they add in parentheses “If you can’t afford it, don’t let it keep you away – we will sponsor you!” – not understanding that for many of us poor, being singled out as needing that kind of help is excruciating?  (We know, we who have been poor for any length of time, how the generosity with which we are met at first soon fades into “Why don’t you do something to help yourself?”; we know the agony of having others think that we are, not desperate, but lazy leeches.)

Have you ever noticed how the poor in other countries are perceived as “noble”, while the poor right next door to us – to you – are looked down upon with contempt?

Take a good look at your brothers and sisters in Christ.  We, the poor, are always with you – not just in the sense that poverty is a never-ending problem, but in the sense that we are on the same side as you.  The poor are not just “they”, to be the subject of kindly efforts to assist them and bring them to Christ; the poor are also “we”, members of the Body, equal in the sight of God.