Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Different Face of Jesus

Last night we went into our nearest city, Lancaster (PA), to feed hungry and homeless people and, as Evelyn and I were debriefing the experience, we talked about one significant reality.

Jesus said, "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Last night, Jesus had a different face than the one we are used to seeing when we do this feeding.

Normally we see people who are young: Dead beat males, drunk or high males with substance abuse problems, single young women who got knocked up and whose babydaddy ain't around or single, abused women recently on their own.

Last night's crowd included those people for sure, but there were also many who were older, wearing nice but old clothes who, apparently, have recently come on hard times. They were a humble, perhaps humiliated, lot.

They are, increasingly, the new Jesus.


But, it is our world these days.


Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

The life you save might just be your own.

1/12/2012 10:55 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...

Why don't we engage in conversation over our struggles to live out the life of discipleship Jesus commands?

1/13/2012 5:00 AM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

bill, wonderful idea. I am hoping that when/if we move to a different format, these discussions are a core part. I think it will draw in more people as well.

Here's what I'm struggling with. Taking 'the sheep and the goats' teaching at face value. how does that translate into our responsibilities practically? Let me give you my scenario as an example of my struggle:

Our church (and where I live) is in an area that is suburban, middle class, and those who are most desperate are often good at hiding themselves.

We have a city (Harrisburg) not very far from us where the needs are more plentiful and obvious.

Of course there are huge needs around the world. There are places in Africa that probably make the homeless in Harrisburg look rich.

So I'm seeing the first level as those who we(I) encounter who ask for help or it's obvious that they need help without them actually asking.

I don't recall a situation where I ever denied someone help who came asking for it. (A BIG struggle here, but not the one I'm asking about now, is how and how much to help in some of these situations where the requests can be ongoing and a lot of $$). I know in years past, I've walked past people on the street wanting money while visiting in Boston for example. I don't know what I'd do with that now...(There's another possible struggle for discussion sometime)

So, the city close to us - Harrisburg. We give fairly substantially to those doing frontline work of providing food, clothing and shelter to those in need, as well as bringing food and supplies throughout the year.

We aren't yet physically going and providing the services, but we are looking at how to best do that this year.

So (finally) my main struggle here is how do we know when we're being faithful to this teaching?

I don't know that we can ever feel like we've done 100%, but how can we know that we haven't totally failed and are goats?!?!

1/13/2012 9:20 AM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


Good questions.

We do 'missionary' work by going into Lancaster, which is about the same distance for us as Hbg is for you.

And, we prepare meals in our community which we invite needy people to come to. In time, they've learned about the meals and they come, though few did at first. AND, we also deliver the food that we prepare in those meals.

Metaphorically, we are some distance down this road and when only six people showed up for our first community meal, we could have been discouraged. I was heartened that--and I believe this came from about a year's worth of my teaching Jesus stuff--our people already believed that obedience is its own justification. Our people, I believe, would not have cared if NO ONE showed up because they did what they did for HIM, not any person.

(I say what I say about my teaching not to boast but to make the point that I'm making on the atonement thread. Changed action comes after belief changes. [We will not be missional in our behavior until we believe different things about Jesus AND about what it means to believe in Jesus.])

As far as how you know you are being obedient is concerned, as I read Jesus, you are not being obedient until you look the homeless and hungry in the face and behave toward them in the way Jesus did. I think you need to find ways to do that. If you need help, let us know. Some of us are good at that. I am not one of those people.

But, here's the point, M. I'm not blogging this because I am the expert. I'm blogging it because I'm NOT! I'm blogging this to receive wisdom, not to pass it on. I know what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm doing the best I can. I'm convinced that my best is far from good enough.

1/13/2012 9:49 AM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

"As far as how you know you are being obedient is concerned, as I read Jesus, you are not being obedient until you look the homeless and hungry in the face and behave toward them in the way Jesus did."

That was a good thought. I think we need thoughts like this.

It's sort of like short-term missions trips. The truth is that people living locally can generally do more then a bunch of us paying for plane tickets etc to go for a week. BUT, going changes perspectives and hearts.

Generally speaking, I think others can 'do it' better with our funds, and so I'm not inclined to stop giving and say, 'we'll just do it all oursleves.'

But I think you are right about looking someone in the eye and seeing the reality. This needs to be there.

When I've helped people in person, I can testify that it's different than knowing that it's being done by someone else.

1/13/2012 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Tammie said...

It's been a bit since I've been able to jump into a conversation so I hope you don't mind a sudden intrusion!

bill - Your original observation is something that I have seen while working at a local food ministry. I'm the produce coordinator there so I see people coming through the main distribution and the Farm Stand at which we give away fresh veggies twice a week. While there are many who have been coming for a long time, there's always some new people each month who come to us with a different look just as you described. They sometimes break down as they tell us they never thought they would be in this situation. Thankfully, our ministry allows us the time to listen and pray with them.

bill & Dan -

I'm not an expert either, but one thing I always tried to do was follow what I called an Acts 1:8 model in which we were witnesses to Christ in our local neighborhood, in the region and the world. The trick is always achieving balance in time, expense and experience.

Sometimes we become blind to the need in our own communities and (strangely) it takes going somewhere else to serve to open our eyes ... especially if the leaders/hosts can guide debriefings/discussions in that way. I know that is what has brought some volunteers to us.

Oh, and Dan ... I never remember where you are, but if you're anywhere near Carlisle, feel free to come help us out. It would be a community similar to yours. (Shameless plug to help me do my work!)

1/13/2012 7:30 PM  
Blogger Dan Masshardt said...

Tammie - thanks for jumping in.

I'm not 'next door' to Carlisle, but not so far I can't come over. I'd actually love to come over sometime when you are there. I'll shoot you a message.

1/13/2012 7:57 PM  
Blogger bill Sloat said...


I'm not surprised that you are seeing what is showing up only about 60 miles east of us.

I didn't know you were in Carlisle. Perhaps at some future time we may be able to work together in assisting congregations in the Eastern Religion is finding ways to live for 'the least of these' as Jesus modeled and commanded.

1/14/2012 5:47 AM  

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