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At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”
Give and Take
We have a problem with trust in this country. Distrust is everywhere. We hear it in the news programs. I overhear people talking about it, and the politicians are showing us that they cannot be trusted. It is a sign that community is breaking down, and the common trust that we once had in this country is gone. The moral fiber of our nation is fraying.
Well, not everywhere. I was on a plane the other day going to St. Louis for a Board of Directors meeting for IPM, International Partners in Mission. This is the organization I have been a part of for over 10 years, and you know our own Rev. Joe Cistone, Minister of our International Missions, is the CEO. Anyway, I am on the Board, and have traveled with Joe to El Salvador, taking the youth to countries like Nicaragua, Kenya, Wind River Reservation, Wyoming. Which is an Indian Reservation, not sovereign US soil, but sovereign Indian soil. Talk about distrust. The Indians have no reason to trust the white men who have broken thousands of treaties over the last two hundred years. There are some bonds of trust that need to be fixed. IPM is fixing those bonds with a few tribes through new programs.
Any way I was flying to St. Louis where IPM was founded. And I was talking to a man sitting next to me who considered himself a Danforth Republican. I told him that I had read the book by Senator John Danforth from St, Louis Missouri, about 15 years ago, and asked if he was referring to him. He said, yes, that in those days, Danforth was a leader in the US Senate, worked closely with Senators like Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, others. this was when Senators and Representatives actually worked across the party lines, across the isles of congress to get laws passed that benefited all of the American people. Now-a-days. People don’t trust each other. He said, not only does he not trust politicians any more, but he doesn’t trust his fellow Americans any more. Too much anger; too much back biting; and lashing out at each other. No one knows how to compromise. And I said, I know what you mean. But I beg to differ.
And I told him that I was working on my sermon. And that this certainly was NOT the case with true Christian disciples. They trust each other. They love each other. The early Disciples, who became the Apostles, gave away stuff that was not really meaningful to the community, or sold it and raised money so that they all could live together. It was quite unique. It is still unique. Really, mostly religious people do this these days, and even then, it is far from common. How many nuns and monks do you know? How many people think it is pretty weird to be a monk or a nun? Kathy has a cousin in Columbus who is cloistered and we visit her every so often. She trusts the church with her life, literally. She prays. That’s her job. And she is good at it.
Any way I came home, and went to my office to get prepared for today and I was appalled to find it so messy. WHAT THE . . . I was about ready to yell and throw a fit. And I recalled what Albert Einstein once said: If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind what is an empty desk the sign of? Not my mind. . .
Then I remembered that I have been away so much that I have been just throwing stuff in there, willy-nilly. And storing stuff. I am the culprit. I really do trust the staff to be good to me. Do I have a trust issue? I don’t think so . . . one time I was out with some friends and we stopped and ordered pizza. And a woman who works for IPM, who was in the group, ordered a pizza topped with tuna. And I thought that was crazy, but when she offered it, I turning up my nose at it, but I tried it, and actually, it tasted pretty good. Is this unique? If I brought this pizza in here, and told you it was good, would you actually try it? trust me on that one?
Anyway, back to the passage. This passage defines trust. The disciples were trustworthy. They were Awe inspiring, they had an intense sense of togetherness. Fellowship, unification, goodwill among all the people, even the people in the whole city. And day after day the Lord added to their numbers of disciples because of the good will that was being spread. This is what happens when the good news takes hold of a community, and the Holy Spirit is able to move around as it will. We all can learn a lesson in trust.
And to learn this, we have to find a person who is willing to work with us. We have to learn to Take and give. - Peter Mayer: a Lutheran missionary kid who grew up in India, and now travels the country teaching about life and spreading good news through music, explained about the way his parents did missions work -- the IPM way. “It's a two way street,” he said – we find stuff that they need and give it. They give us stuff we need. These are Gracious holy Moments. Learning from those we are serving. Allowing for Grace to take over in the relationship. That's how God works. He says it best in his songs.
We r a Community of believers worldwide that connects across man made boundaries and borders. International Partners in Mission is the organization his parents founded in 1974. This year is the 40th Anniversary of its humble beginning. It was founded in their kitchen on the premise that good will creates a community of believers even under hostile conditions. For example, some of those in the military might think they need weapons in order to work with people who are desperately clinging to life. Missionaries are armed with the Gospel, have positive attitudes and sow good will. At a prayer lunch over the weekend, I heard a professor from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis talk about how the prophets Isaiah, Joel and Micah of old used to preach this:
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;4 but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
We have to learn to Give and take. – let God lead us. But, here’s the catch: we have to let God actually do God’s thing and quit taking control out of God’s hands. I mean, we keep saying, God you are first and foremost in all of my affairs and I love you and I give my life to you. And then we turn around and take it back and make selfish and mean decisions that hurt others. and we don’t share very well with others. Like starting a war because Sadaam Hussein was trying to control the oil, or water or whatever the reason we went to war with Iraq. Selfish motives. . .
So I propose a new outreach activity: Giving and taking. We all can be more generous in all of our affairs. Let’s be more patient and kind and merciful in everything we do. Put other’s need before our own. If someone is saying something unkind to you, don’t retaliate, we just take it, calmly listening. But I am not saying back down, just be in listening mode first. Because we certainly don’t let them take advantage of us. But we meet their insults with love and kindness. And we have to listen to each other, and love in God’s frame of mind first, then we will find out the truth and use that to our advantage.
Now I am not one to back down from a discussion. I meet all kinds of people all the time and have interesting and honest discussions with them. John, the Republican on the plane is a perfect example. It’s good to hear different perspectives. It’s good share my perspective with others. they need to hear it. And I need to hear theirs.
But it's a radical concept to share everything in common. Or give it all away for the good of the community. It appears that the Apostles became intentionally poor. But that is not it at all. People gave them stuff. And it was because they were the prophets/evangelists. They didn’t have to worry because they knew that their needs would be taken care of. They trusted that the community would fill in the gaps. They trusted that once the people learned how good God is, they would be generous and there would always be enough of everything for all.
And folks that they would meet in the towns that they visited were so grateful for the Good News that they gave to the Christian group. They were so happy to be free, and saved, and healed that they wanted to express their gratitude; wanted to financially participate in and support the mission of spreading the Good News.
This does not seem so far-fetched to me. I see people doing it all the time. Giving to us. St. Paul’s is the recipient of the Good Will of others. It is a little strange for us here in this worshiping community to think of ourselves as evangelists, because we all have our set ways, our own homes, our own separate, equally important lifestyles outside of the church family. But others see us as givers. We receive and we give. Actually, it is not so radical after all. We are not poor, but everything we take in we give away. I mean, we are not perfect, but that is the idea our ministries here. We gather stuff and we give it away . . . we truly open our doors, hearts and minds to the poor. Kind of pay it forward.
This is what energizes me. This is what I talk about when people ask what St. Paul’s is all about. I tell them that I experience the Awe of discipleship in the form of Grace - the more u give the more u get back.
Mercy, forgiveness, hope, love, peace, joy, - you receive the same things back.
if u give little u won't get much == the more u give the more will come to u
Grace = give and take. It works if you work it. There are plenty of people walking around now that don’t trust their neighbors. But we can change that. We can create trust. We can create beauty. We can be a part of the kingdom of God where everyone lives in peace. We cannot leave it to the politicians, the businessmen, the ones with power and money to do whatever they please. They want to run things their way. I say different. Lets teach God’s way.