From Our Pastor
Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche community in France, said, “People may come to our
communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.” He was referring to the people without intellectual
disabilities who come to live in community with those who have intellectual disabilities. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount makes a similar statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3 (NRSV) This is an interesting concept that may seem foreign to us as twenty first century Americans. We live in one of the richest countries in the world and yet Jesus and this modern day theologian are saying that realizing our poverty helps us to remain in community and bring us the blessing of being a part of the kingdom of heaven. I have often wondered how we as economically middle and upper class Americans understand these statements. As the disciples said to Jesus, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” John 6:60 (NRSV) I know for me I have wondered if I can be blessed without
becoming financially poor. I have struggled with the fear that accompanies being poor and the uncertainty of life that it brings. But does it mean we have to be financially poor?
Matthew says the “poor in spirit” unlike Luke who simply said the poor. So what does it mean to be poor in spirit? Does it mean we are depressed and dejected? Does it mean we are hopeless and afraid? Does it mean we are broke and penniless? I believe it means something completely different. Dr. Billy Graham says “We must be humble in our spirits. If you put the word ‘humble’ in place of the word ‘poor,’ you will understand what He meant.” Blessed are the humble for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Interesting. I know many people struggle with the concept of being humble as well. I have been told that if you believe yourself to be humble then you are not because you have pride in your own humility. So what does it mean to be humble or to live humbly? When we are humble we come to realize our own inability to provide for ourselves everything that we need. We submit our lives to one who is greater than we are in deference to their ability and rule over us. We can come to help others with the attitude of seeing the others’ need for us to intervene in whatever situation they find themselves. We can have an attitude of superiority and self-greatness. The publican thanked God that he was not like the
sinner as both were praying in the temple. The king looks over the peasants and reminds himself that he is better than they are. Yet for every person on the planet there are things which they cannot provide for themselves. We cannot make air, we cannot make water, we cannot make the sun shine or the earth spin and yet all these things are required for our lives to continue. When we come before God and accept his greatness and his dominion over us we have the opportunity to come to see our total dependence on his grace, mercy and love to provide for us that which we are unable to provide.
Vanier has seen those who come to serve others out of their abundance and those who have come to serve out of their realization of total dependence on God. He has seen who stays and who leaves. He has experienced what happens when we humble ourselves to reach out to the community in our own need for God and to offer from the blessing we have received to bless others. The difference is astonishing. When we give of ourselves we soon reach the bottom of our bucket, when we give as we receive from God our bucket is bottomless. I struggle with humility, as I’m sure most of humanity does. I struggle with knowing I rely on God for all things and with the need to provide for myself. The key is learning to provide for myself as God enables me; to see the hand of God as actively working in my life to give me the strength, ability, and courage to live each day in full dependence on his grace. As we serve this community together I pray we can look not at the need of others and how little they have but realize that we, too, are fully dependent on God for every breath.
I feel so blessed by this congregation and I am thanking God each day for sending me here to love and be loved. I have felt His love in so many ways in the last few weeks and I am excited about sharing that love with the
community as we grow and serve God together.