Maybe you’ve got a shelf FULL of the latest books by social justice crusaders. Maybe you’ve been to The Justice Conference. Maybe you’ve shared that Francis Chan video on Facebook – or Tony Campolo or Shane Claiborne – and spoken a silent Yes! – they are speaking my language. Click like. Retweet. Me too.
But honestly, the daily grind of loving my impoverished neighbors is a LOT less fun and cool. Everybody wants a revolution. But no-one wants to do the dishes. Frankly, I love the idea of justice much more than the practice. Or as Mother Teresa put it, “Today, it is fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not so fashionable to talk with them.”
I’m convinced this is why we tend to ROMANTICIZE poor people who are geographically distant – those living in a war-torn African nation, or folks in an Asian slum – while we DEMONIZE the very poorest on our own doorsteps. It’s a clever mental strategy for keeping them at arms length, while maintaining our identity as someone who cares about justice.
I have served in some of the poorest places in Indiana. I have served where we had homeless sleeping in and around the church building. I have bought meals, and clothes, and have listened to horror stories that would move the most hardened person to tears.
But there are folks in the world that have money but are still poor. They have money but don’t have friends … they have money but don’t have security … they have money but don’t have the emotional band width to keep on going … They have money but are anxious about stuff. They are poor … but have money.
So my question is this: how do we help them? Do we, as followers of Christ, take up our cross daily? Do we take our mission seriously of making disciples to change the world? Do we follow our vision of Loving God, Loving all and serving joyfully?
My Grandfather was basically a sharecropper – he farmed for a man who owned hundreds (if not thousands) of acres and had people take care of it for him. So there were always hired hands coming and going and many of them would come to my grandparents house for supper. My Grandma had a policy: “If this is your first time here, welcome! You’re our guest. Sit back and relax. If this is your second time here welcome! You’re part of the family. And that means you have the privilege of helping with the clean up afterwards.” So, after dinner, it was my job to pull out a bunch of Popsicle sticks – each stick lovingly tagged with one of the many chores that would transform the kitchen and dining room back into spic and span condition. If you were lucky you might get “clear the table” or “push all the chairs in” – a simple 5 minute exercise. The ones everyone avoided were “wash dishes” and “dry dishes”.
I don’t think it is Biblical but: Wherever two or three people gather in the name of soap suds and clean dishes, there is community in the midst. There is Jesus! Who figured out that coming down and hanging out with us in the flesh was the best way to show his love. And there we are – grappling with a soaking tea towel. Trying to wipe the suds off a million plates. (It probably was only a dozen or so, but it seemed like more) And all the while, carrying on a conversation about nothing and everything. There is something you find in the kitchen, around the dinner table, and the shared cleaning up afterwards that you won’t find in a soup kitchen or a food line. You find family. Everybody wants a revolution. But no-one wants to do the dishes.
But maybe we can change that one Popsicle stick at a time.
Bless you all – Pastor Roy