Sep 25th, Mission Possible: Justice and Mission, with Brenda Simpson
Sep 25th: Mission Possible: Justice and Mission, with Brenda Simpson.
I appreciate this group and I’m so glad that you are my church family. This community has supported me very well over most of my adult life. Now I’m excited to be working on mission and justice with you. You a church that is so generous and active. I have to say, I didn’t imagine when I signed up to be Coordinator of justice admission that I would be preaching.
Yet here I am. I am grateful to have the opportunity to talk to you about something that I feel very passionate about. I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last year and a half. I retired from a job that I really enjoyed to fight a difficult medical situation. About a year ago, I came out the other side.
I still had to get stronger physically and fully recover. But more importantly, I had to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. What is it that gives me purpose? What makes me happy? What makes a good day for me?
What makes me feel valuable? I adopted a personal motto in the form of a Bible verse one john 318. Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but indeed and truth. Let’s start today by reading a passage from Matthew. Matthew 25 31 through 40.
I’m reading from the message. Translation when he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him, and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheeps and goats, putting the sheep to his right and the goats to his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, enter, you who are blessed by my Father, take what is coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the World’s Foundation, and here’s why I was hungry and you fed me.
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was homeless and you gave me a room. I was shivering and you gave me clothes. I was sick and you stopped to visit me. I was in prison and you came to see me.
Then those sheep are going to say, Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you thirsty and give you drink? And when did we ever see you sick or imprisoned or come to you? Then the King will say, I’m telling the solemn truth.
Whenever you did one of these things to someone, overlooked or ignored, it was to me. You did it to me.
Let’s take a minute or two to consider our mission statement. Here at First Presbyterian Church, living the spacious and radical love of Jesus so that all might flourish.
So is it optional to do justice and mission work, to care for others? No, it’s not really optional. It’s a clear commandment that is constant in Jesus teaching. Love one another. Love your neighbor as yourself.
This is the crux of following Jesus, of being a Christian. This is how Jesus said that we can be identified as his followers because we have love for one another.
Can I even make a difference? There are so many issues poverty, racism, discrimination, war, violence, abuse, neglect. It goes on and on. If I let myself focus on all of the despair, I can become so saddened and discouraged that I want to give up. I need to focus on what God calls us to do.
We need to be faithful to the best of who we are. We need to focus on loving each other, not fixing the world. We need to be the light that shines. You know, our very presence makes a difference in our world, whether we recognize it or not. Just by being here, we change the world.
How are we going to change it for the better? I love the quote from Other Teresa I cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples when we let the spacious and radical love of Jesus flow through us. The ripples will touch many people, and it will touch their families and their friends and their children and their grandchildren. The ripples of love will spread through our world and across generations. Okay, how do I do this?
And who is my neighbor? I think that we all need to work to improve our awareness of where we can share the spacious, radical love of Jesus. We’re all busy, usually doing very good and important things.
We need to not be in such a hurry that we don’t notice those that need love. Jesus often stop to talk to the leper, the beggar, the children, the prostitute, the people in need of his love. Often the disciples tried to hurry him along. After all, he really did have important work to do. Let’s strive to notice, be overlooked, be ignored and the despised like Jesus did, even when we are busy.
So where are our neighbors? Well, you can find neighbors in our congregation. Many of us are lonely, especially after the pandemic. There are people struggling with health issues, some struggling with aging, some heartbroken and filled with grief. Strangers coming to our congregation looking for a connection.
Parents struggling with juggling families and the work they need to support them. Young people struggling to navigate their world and develop their values. We need to share the spacious, radical love of Jesus with each other. Share a smile, laugh together. Take interest in your neighbor.
Reach out and welcome each other. Mentor our children. Another great quote from Mother Teresa is the most terrible. Poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved. Make the members of our congregation feel loved.
Help our church family flourish. You can find neighbors in our community. For example, we’ve all heard that there are people in bed experiencing food insecurities. Have we really thought about what this means? They are hungry and they don’t know how to get enough food.
I can’t imagine the stress of putting my children to bed crying because they’re hungry and I can’t provide enough for them to eat. Thanks to your generosity, our church’s Hunger and Homeless Task Force was able to send out $1,875 worth of food vouchers to 51 families. And we’ll send out another mailing like it in December. The vouchers were in $25 increments. Most receive one voucher, but larger families got two or three.
I got to be the one to take them in the post office and drop them in the slot. After mailing them at the post office, I stopped by Costco to grab a few things for my family. Standing in line to pay, I couldn’t help but think that $25 wouldn’t begin to pay for the groceries in my cart for my small family. Our neighbors in Warm Springs do not have enough drinking water. Thanks to your generosity, I was able to load up and take a bunch of water to them.
Sherry and I loaded 110 gallon bottles into my rig. I purchased some with the money you donated, and some are what you put in the grocery cart in our entryway. I was feeling great about it. Kind of felt like I had a nice little workout. Lots of reps.
When I got to Warm Springs, I realized that even though I had driven on the highway through their communities so many times, I never noticed the town or the people that lived there. The people at the distribution site were so very grateful. They explained to me that they were short on bottled water and were piecing together how to get the water to the families that need it. They distribute 400 to 500 gallons each day. These are just two examples from the last few weeks.
Our church has many justice and mission efforts going on in our community, and all of them need more help.
You can also find our neighbors around the world. I got to experience this in Guatemala when we were invited to the home of a San Lucas Taliman student that my husband and I sponsor. The walls were a mismatch of boards going each way. The floors were dirt. There were a few plastic jewels, but not enough for all of their family to sit on.
The family consisted of parents and six children. Looking around, I couldn’t imagine how all eight of them could even lay down to sleep on that dirt floor. There didn’t seem to be enough square footage. Brian, my students, his mom, welcomed us into their home. His father is a day laborer.
He doesn’t get to work every day. But when he does, he earns 50 quincilies less than $7 in US. Dollars for a day. The student, Brian, has since graduated and is an auto mechanic. He has a much greater earning potential than his father.
His younger brother is also an SLT scholar. This has the potential to help his family, his parents, siblings, future children, and extended families to flourish. After the visit, I was hot and tired from walking around the village. Got a nice shower, changed clothes, and made it to the hotel restaurant before dinner. I ordered a lovely refreshing gin and tonic.
It cost 50 consoles with tip. I first did the conversion in my head, convinced myself that this is a good price, cheaper than many of my favorite spots in downtown Bend. Then it hit me like a gut punch. These few ounces of refreshing liquid that would be gone in just a few minutes cost the same amount as all of Brian’s family’s basic needs for more than a day. I haven’t been to Burundi, but I know that our Burundi team is looking for help so that they can help more students in the villages that we partner with, with their educational costs.
I asked, why. Is the number of students increasing? Is it awareness, maybe proximity to the school? The answer sent chills down my spine. It is.
Because of our partnership over the last seven years, the village can now produce more food, and less children are starving to death. So more students are going to school, less children are starving to death.
Love one another. Don’t just talk about love, but live the spacious and radical love of Jesus so that all may flourish. As Christians, this is who we are. This is what we do.
I always get an eye roll or a chuckle when I tell people that doing justice admission work is self care. Well, that seems silly. It’s my money, my time, and I’m giving it away. Isn’t the math simple? Giving to others sleeps less for me.
Shouldn’t I be talking about a spa or relaxing dinner at my favorite restaurant is self care? We forget the other parameter in this equation. We forget what we receive from giving. We all have the basic need to be of value. Living the spacious and radical love of Jesus.
That all might flourish has great value. As the author of Acts tells us, it’s better to give than to receive. I also love the quote from Father Greg Boyle’s of Homeboy Industries we don’t go to the margins to make a difference. We go to the margins so that the folks at the margins will make us different.
Sharing the love of Jesus with others is beneficial to our own mental and spiritual health. Last summer, I had an aversion towards the cancer center at St. Charles. The thought of just going there, even the look of the building, made me angry, discouraged, grumpy, and just generally down. This was because just when I started to feel better, I had to go back into that place for another dose of poison that was making me so sick.
Even though I hoped that the treatment was killing my cancer. It was so hard to buck up and get in there for another infusion. My daughters had heard me say that a social worker had asked me if I needed food assistance. They have a small food closet there and can help me with my immediate food needs. My girl suggested that to prepare for my next treatment, I should go shopping for groceries for the food closet.
I did that until I couldn’t. Then they did the shopping for me. I had to make sure that I had that bag of groceries to take to the cancer center when I went in for treatment. They were always grateful for them there. But I don’t even know if they actually needed them.
I know that the St. Charles foundation supports that food closet, but I needed it. I needed to give and focus on that sharing of love with others to help me be positive in a very mentally challenging time.
Where am I supposed to fit into the picture? Well, don’t try to force around peg into a square hole. What do you love to do? What brings you happiness? That’s where you should serve.
Use your skills and your enjoyment to help others. Our church has many areas to serve our congregation, our community and our world. I’m available to help you plug into our justice and Mission work. And if you’d like us to add another different service project, let’s chat about it. You can reach me by phone or email.
The church office can give you my contact information. There is a question of how much of our time and our money should we give? This is a very personal decision. After coming home from Guatemala, I was moved to evaluate my life, to find places that I was spending time and money that didn’t really bring me happiness. I tried to redirect those resources to justice and Mission work.
That was a good place for me to start. But was it spacious? Was it radical? Maybe not quite. I challenge you to join me in spending time and thought, considering how we live, the spacious and radical love of Jesus so that all may flourish.
We are called to do this together as the Body of Christ. How can you connect or reconnect or increase your connection with justice and Mission activities?
Let’s the most of each day that we have let’s do this.