Give What You Have.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”  -Luke 6:24

At one point or another in your life, you’ve most likely been asked the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?”

Do you have your answer?

My first order of business would be paying back my college loans. I’d probably ditch my 2003 car for a newer model. I’d certainly travel. I’d buy tons toys and books for my adorable nephew, although he’s only a few months old and still learning that his hands and feet are attached to him.

What that sum of money could do in my life!

OR.

I could donate a hefty sum to City Gospel Mission, a local soup kitchen. I could donate to women’s shelters across the country. I could help buy passports for children whose parents have been deported. These are just a very, very few of the many possibilities of what that good that sort of money could do in the world.

I know that the statistics for winning the lottery are not very promising. In fact, I know I have 0% chance of winning the lottery…and it is 100% because I don’t play the lottery! Then I ask myself, “Why do I need the lottery to invest in ministry?”

Photo by Aleksandr Berdnikov, Wikicommons (2015).

I’m still so blessed and have lots to give. I have ears for listening, I have time for giving, and although I don’t have millions of dollars, I have a few bucks here and there to spare for a meal. I have wealth. Maybe not in cash, but I have a wealth of gifts for ministry. We ALL have a wealth of gifts.

Although my bank account will be never be graced by a lottery winning, what I CAN do is donate my time to City Gospel Mission, helping to serve meals to the hungry in my city. I have gently worn work clothes and personal products that can be used at women’s shelters. I can pitch in for passports for children whose families have been torn apart. Perhaps even more important than that is my ability to create awareness—to use the platform I have, no matter how big or small, to advocate for those in need. And I can donate to those ministries I support. Every little bit does indeed help.

Jesus did not have money spilling out of his pockets, and he yet he healed, fed, revived, and saved us all. By the grace of God, I have enough to help my brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Alyssa Finke spends her time writing, hiking, and cooking. She also really enjoys a nice adventure, and will cross oceans or city limit signs to have one. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Alyssa is the Marketing Coordinator for Forward Movement. Currently raising a tomato plant, a cactus, and several geraniums, her green-thumb aspirations are a work in progress.

Jesus of the Pizza

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
-Luke 6:24

I was recently struck by a video I saw from a group that does social experiments. A young man was asking for food in front of a pizza place. Time after time, he is turned down by people with an extra slice on their laps.

Homeless in Munich eating a found pizza by Usien, Wikicommons (2011).

He then stumbles upon a homeless community member who is sitting with his belongings, eating pizza (full disclosure—the pizza had been given to him earlier by a different member of the team).

When the hungry young man asks for a slice, the man agrees to share, and they sit side by side on the sidewalk eating pizza.

I see Jesus in this story. I see Jesus sitting against a building with all that he owns. I see Jesus sharing what he has—even when it is not much. I see Jesus turning a few fish and loaves into an extra slice of pizza for a hungry man (I’m not talking about anchovy pizza, ya’ll).

Why is it that we hold so fiercely to our chests what we think is rightfully ours. Why do we have such a hard time giving, when it is one of the clearest messages in the Bible? If we didn’t understand “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation,” we should have at least understood “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).

How about this section from Luke 12:33: “Sell your possessions, and give alms”? Could Jesus have been more straightforward? Jesus reminds us again and again that worldly possession are obsolete and that our greatest gift is to give to others.

So now that I have gotten you itching to serve Christ and hungry for pizza, go grab a pie (hold the anchovies) and share with someone in need.

 

Alyssa Finke spends her time writing, hiking, and cooking. She also really enjoys a nice adventure, and will cross oceans or city limit signs to have one. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Alyssa is the Marketing Coordinator for Forward Movement. Currently raising a tomato plant, a cactus, and several geraniums, her green-thumb aspirations are a work in progress.

Donating My Love

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
-Luke 6:24

I have a confession.

“Make a donation” has been on my To-Do list for roughly three months now. It has been beaten out by errands, at-home work, grocery runs. It’s been left behind after planting flowers, meal prepping, and cleaning. It still sits there, amongst more successful To-Do’s that have been crossed off, eagerly awaiting a pen to strike through.

When I chose to write for this week, I pondered the verse “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” and thought This can’t apply to me…I’m not rich! My car is 13 years old, I live in a modest apartment, I have loans to repay. I’m not on a doctor’s salary, and if I have inheritance from a long lost relative, I have yet to see it.

But I also have enough to share. As I read through my To-Do list day after day, however, I’m ashamed to see it hasn’t been one of my priorities.

I’m glad that Jesus prioritized being loving and generous—or where would we be? What if he didn’t have time to raise Lazarus from the dead? What if he looked the other way when confronted with the sick? What if he didn’t feel generous enough to feed the masses with fish and bread? And most importantly, where would we be if had chosen his own comfort and ease instead of offering himself to die for our sins?

Surely, my house doesn’t need to be cleaned so badly that I can’t take 10 minutes to donate to a cause that I’m passionate about, to an organization that helps people in need. And maybe next time I go to spend money on myself, I can remember that three word line that is not just there to be crossed off, but is a commitment of putting my wealth, however small, to support my love of neighbor, a love that says I recognize you as a child of God and you are important. A love that, quite deeply, invests in word and deed.

In no circumstances would I call myself rich, but still, perhaps my lessons is “Woe to those who have enough, but don’t make time to share.”

Alyssa Finke spends her time writing, hiking, and cooking. She also really enjoys a nice adventure, and will cross oceans or city limit signs to have one. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Alyssa is the Marketing Coordinator for Forward Movement. Currently raising a tomato plant, a cactus, and several geraniums, her green-thumb aspirations are a work in progress.

Whom Do You Hate?

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”

-Luke 6:22-23

Saturday nights are school nights for me. I don’t do much exciting. I catch up on the television shows I’ve missed during the week. I eat dinner. I take my pup Evie for her evening walk. I read through my sermon one more time and almost always make a few more edits.

Then I pray before I go to bed. Yes, that habit many of us formed as small children still resonates with me as part of my bedtime routine. Lights out. Rest in the silence for a bit. Then pray.

O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth thine unending day upon us who watch for thee, that our lips may praise thee, our lives may bless thee, and our worship on the morrow may give thee glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is the prayer for Saturday in the Book of Common Prayer for Evening Prayer. While I have great affinity for many prayers in the Prayer Book, certain prayers have such a rhythm to the profundity of their words they become ingrained in my memory. The prayer is part of my routine as I prepare to celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning.

Many of us reading this will be preparing for worship on the morrow (isn’t that a great phrase?). We will gather with fellow Christians, hear the Word of God, pray, and receive the Body and Blood. As we prepare to stand or kneel to receive Christ, who will we stand or kneel alongside?

Whom do we hate?

And none of us get to say, “Oh, I don’t hate anyone. I just really dislike a few people. Walk with me to the parking lot and I’ll tell you ALL about them.”

Hating someone (which Jesus clearly knows we do) means regarding them with extreme ill-will, having extreme aversion to, and (a very telling older definition), holding great grief about.

Are there people in our congregations, perhaps in our lives, we hate? Are there those whom we have excluded or whom we’ve talked about in unkind and even unfair ways? Do we go out of our way on Sundays to avoid them? Do we skillfully miss them while exchanging the Peace? Have we moved to another pew or even another church because of our hate?

While this section of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Plain doesn’t directly address our strained and broken relationships with each other through our behaviors, his words do indirectly address that we, as humans, act and say things that are profoundly hurtful to each other because we want to hurt the other.

And yet, so often we justify our hurtful actions.

“Well, she started it.”

“I wouldn’t have been so rude if he hadn’t said those things about me.”

“We used to go to St. Swithin’s Church, but it’s just filled with so many unchristian people we left and never looked back.”

And Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”

Yes, even those enemies.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus doesn’t think we are all essentially four year olds who missed our naps and are hungry. On a very basic level, the Holy Eucharist renews us and feeds us so we can grow up from our hurtful behavior.

We gather on Sundays and remember our voices can just as easily be used for praise and reconciliation as they can for defamation and division. God reminds us on Sundays that our lives can be witnesses of love and inclusion rather than hate and exclusion.

Where are the relationships in your life that may need mending? With whom might you need to kneel or stand before the altar of God and allow the love of God to replace discord and disunion as you both receive Christ?

On account of the Son of Man, we are all called to reconciliation, to love those who challenge us. We don’t get a pass from that love. Perhaps our prayers on Saturday night may include the names of those whom we hate, so that on Sunday morning, we can see them more clearly as beloved children of God.

 

The Rev. Laurie Brock is this week’s writer. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky where she can cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide in football and the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball. She blogs at DirtySexyMinistry.com, tweets at @drtysxyministry, and is the author of an upcoming book on the spirituality of horses from Paraclete Press. She has co-authored and contributed to many books about women and faith. When she’s not doing priest things, she is letting her horse Nina (The Official Lent Madness Horse) teach her about patience and peace.

Listen to the Prophets

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”  -Luke 6:22-23

Prophets, by and large, did not have an easy go of it. Their calls to this ministry came with a deep sense of sacrifice. Jeremiah was quite unhappy about God calling him to prophetic ministry. Amos likely didn’t get invited to any of the cool kids’ parties after he called them cows of Bashan, and extra-canonical legend holds Isaiah was sawed in half in response to his prophecies.

We people of God don’t particularly care for prophets. Our ancestors dismissed them. They called them names and ignored them or engaged in character attacks.

“Sure, Hosea brings up some interesting stuff about how we love material wealth and power more than God, but have you heard about his wife?” we’d whisper in the parking lot.

“All that lion and lamb stuff Isaiah is saying sounds really challenging, like we might have to re-evaluate issues of power and authority and how we use the weak for our own needs and build relationships based on fear. Let’s make it into a cute Christmas ornament and no one will notice what he’s really saying,” a church leader might offer, worried Isaiah’s message might cost him his largest donors.

Prophecy didn’t end with the canon of the Bible being put in place. It continues today. We still hear those whose lips and lives are burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit, calling us out on our sins, holding up the standard of God’s love so we can see how far we sometimes fall from that standard, and reminding us following Christ will often call us to make challenging and sacrificial decisions.

The message of the prophets through the centuries hasn’t changed all that much. We still read the prophets for a reason. They speak to us of God who demands mercy and not only sacrifice, of God who wants justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, and of God who yearns for us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul.

We still need to hear the prophets, ancient and modern. They warn of us of the consequences of our actions, of our self-centeredness, of our discarding the poor and needy for a pair of sandals (or other benefit), and of our faithlessness. They implore us to hear the word of God speaking to us and to turn our hearts from hate and exclusion to God’s lavish love.

We are our ancestors who did not listen to them.

We can also be our ancestors who did heed their words and turned from selfish ways to God’s selflessness.

Can we choose to hear them? Do we allow their words to burn away the chaff of sin from our souls?

The prophets, we hear in the Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, are in a good place. God has embraced them.

Those to whom they speak, those to whom they prophesy? Well, we might need to listen to their messages, their words imploring us to be dedicated to God in a new way.

We need to listen to the prophets.

The Rev. Laurie Brock is this week’s writer. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky where she can cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide in football and the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball. She blogs at DirtySexyMinistry.com, tweets at @drtysxyministry, and is the author of an upcoming book on the spirituality of horses from Paraclete Press. She has co-authored and contributed to many books about women and faith. When she’s not doing priest things, she is letting her horse Nina (The Official Lent Madness Horse) teach her about patience and peace.

Could You?

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.”     -Luke 6:22-23

Photo: Jackson (Mississippi) Daily News

Could you sit in their places?

Could you maintain the peace and dignity they maintained while those around you taunted you, defamed you, hated you, and poured ketchup, mustard, and salt on your head?

Could you pray for them as they did these things?

Of all the images of the Civil Rights Movement that serve as icons for a Christ-like faith, this is one that never ceases to humble me and challenge me in love. The image is from the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi taken on May 28, 1963. College demonstrators participated in a sit-in to integrate the whites-only lunch counter in Mississippi’s capital city. John Salter, a Tougaloo College professor, sits with Joan Trumpauer and Anne Moody as white high-school students revile and hate them.

Anne Moody and another friend begin praying as they were subjected to actions of hate on account of inclusive love. A white man, hearing Anne praying for those who were persecuting her, slapped her face.

Could you continue to pray?

Jesus reminds us that when we are hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed on his account, we don’t get to stop loving. We don’t get to hand them back the same denigrating behavior they’ve poured on our heads. We don’t get to exclude them from God’s love.

We are to respond in love.

This doesn’t mean we are doormats. If someone is engaging in abusive behavior and if someone is violating our boundaries, we don’t simply endure the abuse. We can speak the truth in love and create distance, if needed, to keep ourselves safe. If we witness another harming someone by abuse, degradation, or exclusion, our Christian faith demands we are not complicit in the abuse by remaining silent.

We are to act in love.

But let’s be honest, that’s a tall order from Jesus. How much easier is it to respond to those who have wounded us by delivering our own punches to their guts? How much easier is it, when we are defamed by another, to spread our own rumors? How much easier is it, when we have been hurt by all that is the complexities of human relationships, to exclude them from our lives instead of seek reconciliation?

How much easier is it to pray for the victims of a crime and keep silent before God with the name of the criminal? How much easier is it, when we see children of God excluded and defamed, to shrug our shoulders and offer our thoughts and prayers rather than subject ourselves to the same treatment?

Jesus knows our base reaction is easier.

And he still calls us to love.

For three hours, these children of God sat at this counter, enduring and praying for righteousness’ sake. They prayed. They sat. They persisted. Woolworth’s finally closed the store.

For three hours, Jesus hung on the cross. He endured and prayed for righteousness’ sake. He died, and they finally closed the tomb.

We know the ends of both stories. Love did and does win. But the struggle for Civil Rights and love still persists. We are still called to endure, to pray, to demand justice and work for righteousness.

When the time comes when we are hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed because we are following the teachings of Christ, and believe me, it will come, remember this particular trinity of courageous love sitting at a lunch counter in Mississippi.

Can we do what they did?

Maybe the most honest answer is, “We don’t know.”

Maybe our responses to the wrongs and offenses that are more minor that something like this give us some insight into how we would respond. Next time we are troubled by someone’s actions or response to us, we can consciously choose to act in love instead of embrace revenge.

And then we pray that when the time comes when we encounter resistance because of the Son of Man, we remember his response, their response, and go and do likewise.

 

The Rev. Laurie Brock is this week’s writer. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky where she can cheer for the Alabama Crimson Tide in football and the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball. She blogs at DirtySexyMinistry.com, tweets at @drtysxyministry, and is the author of an upcoming book on the spirituality of horses from Paraclete Press. She has co-authored and contributed to many books about women and faith. When she’s not doing priest things, she is letting her horse Nina (The Official Lent Madness Horse) teach her about patience and peace.