Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Applause

This past Sunday, as every Sunday, we had our Sunday Luncheon.  This is a time when 150 people from the community come to our church to enjoy a free hot meal together (between the two main feeding agencies in Norman a hungry person can eat every meal of the week except for Sunday lunch; that is why we do it.) This past Sunday was a little odd. After realizing that one of the components to the meal had not finished cooking, yet 150 people had already lined up to be served, we knew we had an issue.

Our solution, the only thing we could do at that point, was to send everyone through the line receiving a plate of mashed potatoes, green beans and corn, and a roll. We apologetically announced that we would bring out the not-quite-done component when it was finished and serve it around to the tables.

What follows is the typical thing to happen when you worship and recognize a god who is as creative and opportunistic as Yahweh.

Realizing that we had an extra twenty minutes to kill, I quickly thought through different "activities" that would provide some fun and intermingling amongst the crowd.  After failed attempts to have a group scavenger hunt (yes, I considered it) and a sing-a-long led by one of our homeless regulars, I thought that I might have to settle for plan C which was everyone getting fidgety and just waiting around.

And then as I was walking back to the kitchen to check on the food, "Steve", pulled me aside and said, "If you can pull the piano away from the wall, I'll play it to pass the time."  My eyes lit up with excitement at his offering.

(A side note about Steve.  Steve has been homeless and around FBC for a while now.  The reason he is homeless/poor is medical related, like many people.)

I helped Steve's frail, AIDS ridden body to the stage, and he sat down at the piano.  What followed was a blanket of peace and calm over the lunch crowd.  His fingers persuaded that piano to produce beautiful music.

In the end the food finished cooking, people's bellies were filled, and when Steve had to stop playing after 15 minutes because of exhaustion the entire room erupted in applause.

It really was beautiful.

Monday, May 24, 2010


First off, I am so thankful that you have taken the time to read these stories brought forth out of the Community Ministry.  I realize that many of them, especially when they involve specific instances and individuals, may seem so outrageously heart melting that you wonder if in some way they have been embellished.  Well let me asure you, aside from people's names, all of these stories are told in truth.

Stories are interesting things, aren't they?  True stories remind us of the reality in which we live with real, factual, historical occurrences.  While fictitious stories, although perhaps not recounting actual events, do abide by and give light to the same overarching principles, themes, and feelings that are real, factual, and historical.

At our Community Ministry Committee last night someone mentioned how much physical need there is in our city.  Then someone compared it to experiences they had in Africa with believers who were swimming in poverty.  You don't have to go to Africa to find "deserving" poor.  I don't believe that pity disguised as compassion is the appropriate response in the first place, but why do we fly thousands of miles away from home to help someone in need when all of us have a neighbor somewhere on the path of our week who is in just as much need?

The great commission does not tell us to go somewhere particular, it tells us to be someone particular as we go, live, work, etc.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Tithe

There is an older lady who comes to our church very regularly.  She is probably around 75 years old and extremely poor. I'm pretty sure she wears the same green sweatshirt, light blue pants, topped off with a navy blue billed stocking cap every time I see her.  Shirley and I have become good friends over the past few months.  Recently, she mentioned that her and her husband both have terminal cancer.

She might be an angel; I can't be for certain.  Don't get me wrong, she's not the easiest person to get along with, nor the prettiest, but I think it is completely possible that God sends angels to us especially in personalities and appearances that are not to our liking.  As a matter of fact, somedays I feel like I am completely surrounded by angels.

This particular lady, Shirley, for the past two Sundays has shaken my hand at church in an extremely sneaky way.  Both times now, after we shake hands I have noticed something is left in my hand that was not there before.  On both occasions there is a tightly folded one dollar bill, followed with her words, "put this where it is needed."
I'm overwhelmed.
I could give a few hundred dollars of tithe, but until I give to the brink of my very existence I don't think it would come close to Shirley's dollar.

We're all very familiar with the story in the gospels about the widow who gave a penny.  After seeing her drop her coin(s) in Jesus says something incredibly irrational.  He says that she gave more than everyone else that day.  If you do the math, that is clearly a lie.
But sometimes the truths of the Kingdom look like lies to us.

Look for someone in need around you today!  Seek to help them if you can, but more importantly learn from them.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Way, the Truth, and the Life (of the party).

Have you ever had one of those friends around whom you were able to be completely yourself?  Scott has been that friend for me.  Scott reminded me how there is complexity in the simple things, and that Christ welcomes all people to his table for the party that will end all parties.  The title of this blog entry is one of the many quotes from my friend Scott.

As I work with people who are down and out, homeless and addicted, sad and hopeless, I like to remember that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life of the party.  Think back to his first miracle in John, turning the water into wine.  That wedding party (which were bigger than our wedding parties today) was in serious danger of becoming a family embarrassment.  However, Jesus steps up (really, without taking any recognition for the miracle except from the disciples) and restores hope to the party, takes away potential embarrassment, and brings forth the best wine that party had yet to see.  

Not only does this fly in the face of the Dionysian stories that were circulating around Greek culture, but it showed that Jesus is Lord of the party and the feast, and the wine (blood) that he provides is what we experience at that party.  He provided the wine for us.  
How incredible it is that John starts out his gospel by telling everyone that there is a new life of the party in town.  No one goes away hungry or thirsty from this feast.

In our journey to discover how to help people around us, let us remind those who are hungry and poor that theirs is the kingdom, theirs is the feast.