Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Presbyterians for Earth Care Lenten Reflections 2014
Advocating for Environmental and Social Justice

Isaiah 58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! 


“If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness …” Isaiah 58:10

I suspect most of us have come face to face with hunger.  Perhaps you’ve volunteered at a soup kitchen or seen someone standing at an intersection asking for a handout.  Maybe you have been in the checkout line at the grocery while someone purchased their next meal with food stamps.  Yes, we’ve seen hunger and addressed it.  We’ve supported food drives conducted by the church and sent checks to charities whose mission is hunger relief.

But Isaiah asks more of us when he tells us that in addition to offering food to the hungry we are to “satisfy the needs of the afflicted.”  That’s a huge undertaking.

Seldom does a day pass when I don’t receive a letter asking me to help the afflicted; the hungry, the sick, those suffering because of some natural disaster, the orphaned.  The list of those in need, like the letters written on their behalf, is endless and overwhelming.  It encourages paralysis or indifference.  How do I choose a worthy cause?  What difference could my offering possibly make?

Many of the reflections you have been reading have focused our attention on saints.  That’s a bit of a stretch when we think about ourselves, isn’t it?  Me, a saint!  Who are you kidding?

Yet scripture is filled with references to saints who are rather ordinary men and women who do what they can to bring us closer to the Kingdom of God.  I think about the boy with the five loaves and two fish.  He was just an ordinary kid who gave his lunch away and who, in doing so, became an instrument of God’s goodness.  God says all of us are quite capable of doing something equally significant.  Take the next step and see where it leads you.  Several dozen members of the church I serve will be participating in the SNAP Challenge, living for a week on the same amount of grocery expenditures ($4.47 per day) as do our sisters and brothers who are dependent on government assistance.  Are these folks saints?  I would suggest their commitment to experiencing the challenges of poverty so as to better understand those in need is a step in the direction of sainthood.  Theirs is an “atonement” … a “being with” moment that is like unto Christ.

Gracious God, you made me in your image.  Help me live up to that reality.  Give me opportunities to feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted so that your light – not mine – shall rise in the darkness.

Jay McKell is a husband, father, and grandfather.  He gardens in the spring, prays for rain in August, celebrates October and plays in winter’s snow.  His current ministry focuses on pastoral care with some attention paid to social justice issues.

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