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January 05, 2009

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Anitra Kitts

One of the best books I have read on this topic is "Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition" by Christine Pohl. there is a second book that serves as a study guide for adult groups.

Pohl looks at how many of our institutions - such as the medical hospital - started out with early Christians gathering up the homeless and ill and inviting them into their homes.

Pohl also looks at just how complicated it is to invite impoverished strangers into our homes due to issues of mental health and drug and alcohol addictions.

I take scripture seriously. I also understand that 1st century Mediterranean world doesn't always translate straight across into 21st century world. I think there is wisdom in social institutions that try to do more than just hand out bread but also find ways to get folks back into self-sufficiency. I have written checks and I have also volunteered for several years feeding street youth. I'm in no hurry to invite them into my home. I need to be safe too.

I am also concerned with theology that threatens me with separation into goats (or is it sheep?) based on my actions in this world. My reformed teaching reminds me that there is no way I'll ever "earn" my salvation, that I'm going to mess it up. You and I and the guy holding the cardboard sign up on the freeway exit are already chosen by God. If I hand over the dollar or offer up a ride or not - I'm still with the flock that is loved by God.

Instead, because I am loved by God and I am open to being healed and changed by God then I could find myself interacting with a particular homeless family in ways beyond my imagination - but this comes out of God's love and God prompting of me through the Holy Spirit, not out of fear of standing before the throne. Lord have mercy, I already have too much to answer for in that accounting...

I have volunteered in an emergency shelter set up in a church basement. I knew our guests included a family from mexico. I went and bought food based on a mexican cookbook because I was supposed to help cook dinner that night. The mother of the family pushed me aside and took over. I felt that was the right thing to do. To let her prepare and provide for her family. I sat at table and ate with them. I spent the night at the shelter, with them. And then we parted ways.

okay - rambling but there it is.

Andrew Kang Bartlett

Thanks for the great ramblings!
Claiborne references Pohl's book too.
No, that reckoning before Jesus and being divided into goat or sheep isn't how I picture it - but I know that I often let myself off too easily. Why? Because I'm content in my lifestyle, privilege and comfort.

At the same time, I know that I can be better than that and have Jesus's ministry and the lesson of the cross as inspiration.

Thanks for the theological nuancing. Truly appreciated.

Regina

Shane Claiborne's book has worked on me also...in good ways.

I did the Just Eating program with my Sunday School class summer before last. It mentioned sharing a meal with your neighbor. So I did it and took something over to our 80+ neighbor. He is a widower with a home and plenty to eat, but a lonely heart. Since that one act, our family have become regular visitors at his home. And anytime I make something he might like, he gets a helping. What is key here is not that I am helping a lonely old man, but how God has transformed this effort. What was a "good deed" has become a dear friendship. He ministers to me every bit as much as I may lessen his loneliness. That is what is mysterious and blessed about following Christ. He transforms our labors into gifts. I just need to find more ways to labor for him to find my life truly worthwhile and truly brimming with joy.

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