~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
I have struggled for quite a while on what it really means to love your neighbor. More specifically, how do we, as God’s people, really make a difference in the world and live out the love of Christ. This task seems quite daunting because we know there is so much need. There is great need in other parts of the world, where evil and greed may rule and ruin a nation. There is great need in our country with entire neighborhoods, or even cities, that seem ignored by those with power. There is great need on our street where I pass the homeless man each day and hear about the pain of broken lives.
So what do we do? We know the love of a God who cares spilled His Son’s blood for all people, so how do we reflect this grace and mercy? Additionally, as we will finish our series “Body, Mind and Soul” this week, I will point out that we are caring for our own well-being, so that we are then prepared to care for others. But the second half of that statement must not be left off, otherwise we are just self-serving. So how do we do all of this? These are questions I have asked often, and the challenges that face local congregations.
Today I will offer the best answers I have for now. Perhaps I will have better ones in the future.
As people of God at Calvary Lutheran we are called to be ready, to be able, and to be willing.
First we are called to be ready. We will never serve God and others if we are not ready. This gets back to taking care of our own internal stuff (at the congregational level, and at the individual level) so that we are ready to care for others. We won’t be any good at doing the work of God in the world if we are not ready, if we are distracted by internal strife, if we are focusing only inward (again, both congregationaly and individually). Being ready also means being prepared. If disaster strikes in our state or in our city would we be prepared to respond? If a friend or neighbor experiences hardship are we prepared to help?
Next we must be able. I wouldn’t ask Calvary as a congregation to begin a relocation and immigrant ministry to people of the Hmong. First, we are not equipped to do relocation, we might be able to learn and try over time, but I wouldn’t say it is our skill set or area of expertise. Additionally, I don’t know that there are a lot of Hmong living close by. In Minneapolis there were. Here there are not. To be able to serve well we need to identify our skill and abilities, our assets and gifts. We should look for ways to use those things we are gifted and able to do. We must also be aware of the needs of those around us, and not solve a problem that doesn’t exist. We also have to be aware of our financial capabilities. We cannot do everything for everyone. We have to choose several things we can do well.
Last we must be willing. We could be ready and able, but simply not willing to do the work. We might see risks involved, or rationalize our way out. Or we may just be comfortable. In this area I think it is valuable to limit ourselves to a few specific things and then make commitments to them for a while. Perhaps this looks like finding an international ministry to get plugged into, many to choose from, but make a commitment to one. The same thing for our city, and finally, a few good things we see as opportunities in our own backyard.
In closing I will offer one practical thing I believe we are ready and able to do. Shepherd’s Table is one of the local ministries Calvary has supported for quite a while. Since we have a special event coming up, our Mission Team (they were ready) called to find out what needs Shepherd’s Table has today. Their request is for deodorant, small tubes of toothpaste, and men’s underwear (all sizes) So, if you are willing, we will make a collection of each of these things in conjunction with our Spring Celebration on June 2nd.