Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Sunday
Jul082012

PEOPLES' COMMUNION

Both pastors were out of town. They had delegated the monthly Wednesday night Lord's Supper celebration to Sister Barbara and me.

Sister Barbara was a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and I was a Lutheran elder. The site was Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine. The year was 1985. Prince of Peace is a Missouri-Synod congregation.

So, by what authority were a Catholic sister and a Lutheran layman consecrating the elements in a Lutheran Eucharist? Well, we weren't an ordinary congregation. We were in the middle of Cincinnati's #1 slum. And we were established by the Ohio District under the rubric of the military chaplaincy. Why? Combat zone?

Technically, Sister Barbara was not on the staff of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. She had an office there. She worshipped with us. But she was employed by the Inner-City Clinical Education Program, the only CPE Program of its kind in the Nation. 

We had a large gathering that evening for the community dinner, worship, and theater by Friends of the Groom. There were lots of teens and children. As the meal ended, Sister Barbara rushed to me in panic – "We can't open the sacristy. We can't find the key."

The sacristy, where we kept the communion wine and wafers, was actually an old high school wall locker in a closet. With a Wunderbar I could have popped the door instantly, but then we would no longer have a sacristy (and in our neighborhood, it was essential to keep the wine locked up.)

So, I thought about an alternative and suggested, "You start the service, and I'll get the bread and wine." I went into the kitchen and asked for some bread. The reply was, "We only have hot dog buns." "Perfect," I said and took the package.

Then I ran a block to Jack's Mom and Pop and bought a pint of wine. They gave it to me in a brown bag, and I twisted the sack around the neck, ghetto-style. Then I ran back to church for Communion. I was just in time.

I began by asking, "How many of you here have taken Latin." Six hands were raised. I slapped our lovely, home-made, contemporary altar. "This is an altar. What does that mean in Latin?" "Table."

"Yes, table. Not a fancy, gilded box fastened to the front wall of a church. Nope, just a table. An ordinary kitchen table."

"And what's this?" I asked, holding up the package. "Hot dog buns" was the reply in chorus. "Yes, hot dog buns, the cheapest, least nourishing, most tasteless bread you can buy."

I held up the pint of wine, still inside the bag, and asked, "What's this?"

"Mad Dog!" shrieked the kids. I was so proud of them. They knew it would be Mogen-David 20-20.

"So," I said, "this is the miracle of the Lord's supper. Jesus blesses the bread and wine, and He enters them. It doesn't matter that we have the cheapest bread and the cheapest wine, He still changes them and is present to us. That's the first miracle.

"And the second miracle is this: No matter how bad we are, He also wants to enter us. And change us too. For this to happen, we only have to receive Him. We invite Him in to take charge of our lives. And then we too are changed into new people.

"So, let's receive Him now."

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That was my most memorable Lord's Supper.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2012 by Jack Towe

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