Carla J. Bailey, Senior Pastor
Since the Scripture reading for the sermon this morning was so short, I thought I’d take the liberty to add a few more quotes that would, if I would allow them to do so, preach themselves.
Mark Twain - “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
Mario Cuomo - Every time I’ve done something that doesn’t feel right, it’s ended up not being right.
Chester W. Nimitz - God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.
Mother Teresa - We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - The time is always right to do what is right.
The common thread through all these quotes, including that first one from Proverbs could be this: do it anyway. As smart as we all are, as well-educated, accomplished, literate, we can, and we have, and unfortunately we probably always will develop an entire thesis on why doing what our faith and every decent human instinct within us tells us we should do won’t work. Do it anyway.
There are a lot of hard things in life that I don’t want to do - things that demand self-discipline, things that require consistency not only over a few days but over many months and even years, things that have little or no payback. Some things that life demands of us are painful and some of them require us to be giving and giving and giving without any hope or expectation of receiving anything in return – not even the knowledge that our giving will contribute anything to remedy any human ill or curb the trend toward human suffering. Sometimes life requires us to take a sudden and abrupt turn, away from a job or home or relationship, or toward a changed pattern of relating or eating or self-care.
All of these things I’m thinking of are things that are visited upon us because of choices we’ve made, of course, and the demands upon us because of our jobs or because we are raising children or because we have committed ourselves to particular institutions. But I’m also thinking of changes that are unforeseen - changes in personal health or in the economy or a car accident or the unexpected death of someone close to us. These are times when we have to dig deep within ourselves to come up with whatever it will take to cope and we hope and pray that we have the resources, internal and external, to do whatever has to be done. Some of you are in the middle of those times of coping right now, adjusting to medical news with the accompanying changes in your daily routines, or economic upheaval or grief. Some of you have had to make huge changes in yourselves – changes that are invisible outwardly but have required an entirely different way of thinking and being than you have thought or been before.
But there is something else in those few words from Proverbs that doesn’t address the fortitude many of us have to summon to live with the changed circumstances of our lives. And it is that something about which we need reminders from time-to-time.
There are times when we are obligated to do things because we have chosen to be Christian, to live according to a particular set of values, to be disciples of someone whose demands upon us are accompanied only by the promise of a gentle heart and the love of God. One of those things is share our bread with the poor.
Poverty is a pernicious cultural illness. In some countries, poverty is the direct result of events outside human control or influence. It may be caused by draught or earthquake or hurricane. Usually however, and we know this is true, poverty is caused by human behavior. The truth we resist however, is that poverty is most often caused not by the behaviors of the impoverished but by the actions of the powerful, remote actions, unwitting actions possibly, but human action, certainly. Isn’t war one of the most effective causes of poverty, and what is war if not an action by humans resulting from human actions because of human lack of imagination?
In our country, rich with resources from the waving fields of grain to the interest checks off investments that, though smaller than they once were, still provide more than enough to sustain unimaginable wealth, in our country, we have a tendency to think that poverty is a direct result of poor choices, irresponsible spending, and just plain stupidity.
But you see, it doesn’t really matter why someone is poor. It just doesn’t. She still needs food, and shelter, and health care, and dignity. He still needs bread, and a place to live, and medicine, and hope.
Many of us are called to work against all those systems that cause hunger in the first place. That is necessary and worthy work. But all of us are called to share our bread with the poor. It’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter why. The imperative is so simple. In spite of all the complicated reasons why people are poor, we still need to give them bread, so do it anyway. Amen.