Monday, February 6, 2012

A Beautiful Act of Worship

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Yesterday like so many in America, I spent the day at a Superbowl party. Only the one I was part of was a little bit different. Most Sundays we spend much of the day preparing a meal for the many homeless and poor in our immediate inner city area. Most weeks we have between 100 and 200 people in attendance. One of the things that we have discovered in doing these meals for nearly 3 years is that people are not just hungry for food. I think Mother Teresa put it well "

"At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. 

We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’  

Hungry not only for bread-but hungry for love. 
Naked not only for clothing-but naked of human dignity and respect. 
Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks-but homeless because of rejection. 
This is Christ in distressing disguise."

Last year at this time I was having what I called a Mother Teresa marathon. In a period of about 3 months I read every book I could find that she had written or that was written about her. Her writing challenged me to look at the poor and the broken in a different way. I stopped looking with eyes of pitty and learned to see each person as if they were Jesus in disguise and it was my honor much like Mary wash the feet of her savior with her own hair and costly perfume.  Serving the poor became more than just an act of merciful service or duty but a beautiful act of worship.

Each week I come home very tired, but it is a good kind of tired, that comes from spending yourself to lift the burden of others. I was at church for 11 hours yesterday, I am still tired this morning. Thankfully today will be more of my "day of rest" than Sunday ever is. 

The people we feed each week are appreciative of the meal we serve but their eyes will mist over with tears because someone has taken the time to listen to them. I have some of them pull me aside and ask me "do you work here?" I tell them no I am just a volunteer. They say "I see you here every week - and I can see the question "why?"  Some of them I just joke it off and say "I love hanging out with you folks." Other times that "why" will lead to deeper conversations. The gift make the way for the giver and ushers them before the great and mighty. You may not think of homeless people as "great", bu keep in mind that the kingdom of God is kind of backwards from the norms of most societies.

Here are a few examples from the Word. Matthew 19:
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Luke 9:
46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”

Or take a look at James 2
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;

I could give you more examples but my point is that in this case the gift of a meal, the gift of my time, the gift of a listening ear - open a way into the hearts of these people whom God loves. These people who as my pastor put so well in his sermon yesterday - don't make good church members.  They don't pay the bills, they don't make the place look pretty. Jesus is rarely convient and the things he asks of us generally require the laying down of ones own life for others.  

We have,  I think, missed the point of the gospel when we think going to church is about getting "my needs met", or being entertained by great worship music or a well crafted sermon. We are not called to warm pew's or chairs or to become spiritual couch potatoes. We are called to be his hands and feet, to be salt and light. We are called to make a difference in the lives of others. Not to earn Gods favor but to be part of what He is doing in reaching out to the lost, the lonely, and the broken. I can say that much of my own healing has come through ministering to others. Some how as I am praying or caring for someone else God pours his Spirit through me to them, but in the process both are touched by His healing transforming power.
Dear Lord, 
Transform us as we reach out with your love to care for others. Help us to see beyond our own pain and neediness and to share what we have received of you with others. I pray that as we take those steps of faith today - that you will pour your Spirit through us and in the process of ministering to others we too will be healed and those thing that concern us will be taken care of. I pray that as we provide for others you will provide for us. I pray you give us eyes to see the harvest field all around us. 

We could use your help
If you would like to make a donation to help us feed and minister to the homeless and poor you can send it to:
First Covenant Church / Street Wise
212 S. Division  
Spokane, WA 99202

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