This morning’s gospel reading is from the 11th chapter of Matthew. John the Baptist is in Herod’s dungeon. When he hears of what Jesus was doing, he sends his followers to ask him if he (Jesus), is the Messiah.
The answer Jesus gives to John’s followers is both simple and direct. There’s no mistaking the actions, or the values, of Jesus.
“Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
Look around you. The ones you see doing the works, and living the values of Jesus, are those who demonstrate an authentic Christian spirituality. You can see “Christian values.” They are centered on helping those most in need.
A lifestyle based on John Wesley’s exhortation would be one that would clearly demonstrate the love of God. Following these precepts would help our world become a true community. Living according to these words would also prove that real joy comes from giving.
Here is the gospel in one word. This was actually my sermon this past Sunday. Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord with all our heart and mind and strength, and the second was to love others as we love ourselves.
What a vastly different world we would have if we obeyed this one rule. If we lived by the one rule of God there would be no more poverty and no more hunger.
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. — John Wesley
This familiar quote by the founder of Methodism never loses its appeal to me. Every time I hear it used or every time I see it quoted again reminds me that we have an unending responsibility “to keep on keeping on.”
What continues to inspire me is that John Wesley didn’t just preach about doing good. He demonstrated the “do all the good you can” philosophy every day of his life. He preached to the poor, visited those in prison, and never ceased crusading for those marginalized by society.
Mr. Wesley would not be popular in today’s United Methodist Church. He would be disgusted by (what would appear to him as) the laziness demonstrated by the majority of today’s clergy. He would find the amount of time we waste as both abhorrent and inexcusable. He simply wouldn’t tolerate the lack of zeal we demonstrate as leaders of the people called Methodists.
He wouldn’t be gentle in instructing us about doing good at all the times we could. He would be quick to administer a solid kick to the seat of our pants with a loving reminder that we are to do all the good we can for as long as we can.
And I am quite sure Mr. Wesley would let us know in no uncertain terms that there is no retiring from doing all the good we can. Wesley was raising funds for the poor in snow and ice less than two weeks before he died. But then, for him, doing good wasn’t a career. It was a calling.
Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well.
This quote is another one from the Early Church Father, Saint John Chrysostom (349-407 AD). As I have shared in previous posts, Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople, and is best known for his preaching and public speaking as well as his clear denunciation of the abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders. This is the fourth post I have shared over the past week that illustrates this saint’s deep concern for the poor and hungry.
In my first post on Chrysostom I shared his statement that feeding the hungry is greater and more powerful than working miracles. He was showing that walking along side the poor and hungry should be an integral part of authentic spirituality. This quote’s focus is on the wealth of a Church surrounded by poverty and hunger.
All I can say is Amen! or as my preacher friends down in North Carolina would say, “that will preacher, brother, that will preach.
A wealthy Church in a world of hunger and poverty is a guilty Church. Every child that dies from hungry is an indictment against a fat and prosperous Church. Every person that dies of hunger is a recrucifixion of Christ by those of us who claim to be his disciples but feed the organization rather than the hungry.
In the end, I guess it’s all about priorities…maybe it’s about loyalty…or maybe it’s about faithfulness. What do you think?