The Poor Will Always Be Wih You

On her reflection of the service on Sunday, one of my confirmands wrote,

It is a "sad realization that 'no matter what you do, there will always be suffering people.'"

She quoted the sermon. The sermon about the text in John 12. The text that scolds, "the poor will always be with you." It's a text that I love -- and hate to love. Too often, it's not exegeted. Too often, it's read without enough grace to understand that Jesus did not literally mean that poverty would not be overcome. But, there I was on Sunday, listening to my colleague preach that the poor will in fact always be with us.

I was furious. Visibly furious, I suspect as I couldn't find the words to invite our tithes and offerings. If the poor will always be with us, it seemed futile to collect an offering to feed ourselves and elevate the place of our church. No, friends, there will not always be poverty. Someone does not always need to be poor for us to understand our own bounty. Someone does not need to be less for us to be more. And there may be joy in that, but it's a false joy. Jesus taught us to be with the least of these. Not above. But with. As Christians, we are called to break down boundaries. We are called to abolish the structures of the world. We are in the world, not of it.

But, I serve in a church where this clearly needs to be pushed. Is it my job to push my colleague? Or shall I just start taking the homeless to church with me, serve them communion first and see who gets angry first?

Perahps this is the lesson to teach our children. Perhaps we should stop speaking and listen to our children. For indeed, that is a sad realization. A very, very sad realization.


Cecilia said...

It sounds, Pastor Peters, as if you feel a call to push your congregation on this topic. I know that coming from Union Seminary you have ample tools to assist folks with exegesis of this problematic text.

Rather than attacking by challenging a colleague, why not have a bible study? On the gospel of John, or even on the gospel of Luke-- which, imo, pushes us on issues of poverty as well as any gospel.

Just a thought.

Pax, C.

Cecilia said...

I realize after posting this... it is advice giving, and perhaps you didn't want that. I simply want to encourage you to follow your sense of call, and to creatively use the resources available to you to do that.

Pax, C.

Pastor Peters said...

The Bible study is actually exactly what I was thinking. But, thank you for being so sensitive my feelings about advice. I love the suport though. And God bless you for it. Where would I be without it?