August 30 - September 5, 2004
“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
In the lectionary Gospel reading from this past Sunday (Luke 14:1,7-14), Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for holding a banquet only for people just like they themselves – educated, privileged, wealthy and righteous according to their definition. In a teaching that also says much about the heart and priorities of God, Jesus instructs them to look beyond their own elite circle to the poorest of the poor.
The latest reports on poverty and health care show that our culture needs to hear that teaching as well. As the items in this week’s Gleanings detail, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 1.3 million more people are living below the poverty line and 1.4 million more people have no health insurance.
Why is this a stewardship issue? Because the United States is the wealthiest and most powerful nation that history has ever known, and by any measure we have resources sufficient to provide everyone decent housing, sufficient food and health care. The fact that more are poor and uninsured has to do with how we, collectively, have allocated those resources.
Why is this an issue for Christians? Because our Lord calls us to invite the poorest to our banquet, as well as those who are lame or blind and in need of a doctor. In Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that our concern for the poor can make-or-break our salvation.
What can we do? Charitable giving and social outreach are mainstays of the church, and we can redouble our efforts to feed, clothe and house the needy in our midst. But at the same time, we can and should work for public policies that promote good jobs at fair wages, decent housing, education and health care. Especially in a presidential election year.
I recommend the resource “Elections Matter: Vote to End Hunger” put out by Bread for the World Institute, an ecumenical coalition founded and headed by the Rev. David Beckmann. The resource – available for free PDF download - offers lots of practical ideas on how congregations can engage in nonpartisan advocacy.
"This is not a red or blue issue,” Beckmann said in a press release. “Ending the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger is a red, white and blue issue."
-Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster (email@example.com)
theology of stewardship
Growing in stewardship involves four distinct phases, according to this study guide that provides a biblically based program for a classroom or workshop series. Can be done on its own or incorporated or adapted for your own stewardship drive. Good stuff from Joy Lutheran Church (ELCA), Gurnee, Ill.
E. Marty: Poor progress
Amid reports that more families are in poverty and lack health insurance, one one of our ages' pre-eminent theologians wonders why religious voices are absent on the issue: "Religious approaches to poverty do not make the headlines. Think of all the items you have read this election year about the chosen 'social issues' of highly active religious groups; the ones that reached prime time and made headlines. Did any have “poverty” high on their agenda? " By the Rev. Martin E. Marty. From Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center.
"What's the quickest way to send church members or church school parents scurrying in every direction? Say: ‘We need to do a fundraiser!’ The good news is that the 'fun' is back in fundraising! An exciting array of programs and products and excellent support from firms specializing in fundraisers makes it easier than ever for church groups to raise lots of money." From Your Church magazine in ChristianityToday.com.
feeds us, so we can feed God's sheep
"I had a thought when I was meditating on so many hurts and sorrows in this world. We put up so many crosses and crucifixes to remind us of Christ. I think what Christ would like is if instead of our gaze being upon the cross, that we would check out the view from the cross." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.