Good morning! A great big Happy Anniversary to my mom and dad!
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
There are many groups in the church that I serve who are extremely generous. One of these groups is an adult Sunday school class called the “Askesians.” I can tell you about the name some other time. They had collected a generous amount of money for a program called Operation Christmas Child. Due to some changes this year, the money wasn’t need for that specific program but another idea came up. What if they donated the money to the youth to go buy gifts for about six families that we have served through Community Compassion Fund? The gifts would be given to the children of these families and the youth could have a good time picking out what to give these kids. This is what we did this year! One Saturday a group of youth went shopping all day long. They knew what kiddos they were shopping for so the gifts could be tailored to their needs (as far as age and size and gender). They spent all day thinking about kids in a different situation perhaps that would have a lovely question.
I spent some of my day that day praying for each youth as they shopped/served and each of the families that would receive. This was a connection larger than just gifts but a continuance of relationship with these families. When Jenn, our office manager, mentioned that she needed another adult to help her deliver the gifts, I chimed right in…I would love to help! This was also a bonus because one of our families only speaks Spanish, so Jenn and I could muddle through the conversation together.
On Thursday we set out to our first family and managed to connect with four families on Thursday afternoon. Two families would pick up gifts at the church. We even managed to buy diapers for four of the families (there is such a need right now). It was a lovely afternoon and there was something I noticed that I didn’t expect. I noticed it at the first house…our Spanish speaking only house….we opened the door and there was a huge look of relief on the father’s face. He invited us in, invited us to sit and chat and play with the kiddos. We had a great time. Then we appeared at the second house, another father opened the door and again, a HUGE look of relief greeted us and then a smile. This happened at all four houses…the initial greeting was this sense of relief and peace.
For me, that day was more than gift giving. This was a connection to someone else where we could offer a little bit of help to make sure another family had just a little bit of peace. When we offer the food or water or coat or gift it is more than just a hand out. Are there bigger problems? Of course! There are systems that also need to be worked on and needs to be met in different ways. Did we solve the problem with material goods? No, and sometimes that is really not the answer. But Jesus knew as he offered this parable that sometimes a physical offering shows up and it can fill a gap for now. It can cause a sense of relief and deeper connection. Those gifts represent that someone is caring about those kiddos this week and we hope that we can offer support underneath that. This is what Jesus means when he talks about God being in those persons, in those moments. The physical stuff matters too. And while I am not for more materials or kitsch, I am for seeing God in people.
Today, what physical need might you help fill the gap for? Is there something that you could donate today or reach out and give to another person where it might cause that sense of peace? I know for McMinnville this is the last day (or close to the last day) to pick up a tag to buy a gift for someone and there are places to donate diapers, socks, mittens, meals, etc. If you need help connecting somewhere just let me know. 🙂
Prayer: O God, we offer ourselves up to you. While we know there are larger problems in the world that we continue to work on and while we ask you to simplify our lives and declutter our spaces, we ask you empower us to donate something tangible today. While we try to not focus on materials and possessions as markers in our life, allow us to see the needs of others in the form of food or socks this day. Amen.