“What good is it, my brothers & sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked & lacks daily food, & one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm & eat your fill,’ & yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17 NRSV)
Food. Some folks live to eat; others eat to live; & a lot of peeps have nothing to eat. And as the political establishment in California cuts more & more programs for the poor & hungry, it seems to be increasingly up to non-profit organizations & churches to fill in the gaps with good works.
James, the brother of another famous Jew, hits the nail on the head when he writes about faith without works: Empty words = empty stomachs.
There is a church I am affiliated with that has a bit of a situation going on around all this “feed the hungry” stuff. Out of a congregation of about 400, generally it’s always the same 30 or 40 volunteers who actually DO the feeding that is stated as being one of the missions of said church.
A Thanksgiving Day Dinner has been promised for temporarily homeless families, but few people in the congregation are signing up to donate food. The Dude-in-Charge is too busy jacking-off (figuratively speaking) over his new Yamaha motorcycle (funded by the flock of sheep who pay his salary) to ask said flock for donations for the dinner.
When James’ brother walked the Earth, he fed the hungry AND he sat down to eat with them too. He didn’t ask each person, “Why are you homeless?” “Why are you not working?” “Just why are you mentally ill?” “Why are you having problems with alcohol, buddy?” “Why are YOU a homeless vet?” “Why don’t you buck up & get a job you lazy piece of sh*t?”
Nope, no questions asked: JC fed, cured, preached to & mingled with the outcasts.
And he road a donkey, not a motorcycle.
When I first moved to Sacramento 15 years ago, I had a certain amount of fear & prejudicial views regarding the homeless. But as I struggled with my OWN mental & emotional demons & struggled to overcome them, I had a change of mind & heart.
I’d sometimes walk down to the K Street mall downtown & there would be grungy-looking folks talking to themselves or pushing grocery carts filled with bottles, cans, blankets & other questionable belongings, drinking outta bottles in brown paper bags, hitting up state workers for spare change. And it occurred to me, “There but for fortune could go I.” Just because I was raised in a white middle class family with certain expectations, did not mean that I was guaranteed all the goodies. (And now, 15 years later, it’s like, what Middle Class?!??!)
So I learned about having more compassion & giving people the benefit of the doubt. Because I also deserved those same things. “There but for antidepressants & years of therapy, could go I.”
So when I hear about folks at church who do not want to share a table with “those people” or a Dude-in-Charge who never attends Community Dinners, I start to wondering about the concept of “church.” Is it a members-only club? Can the work of god be better done outside the walls of a “church”?
The “church” disappoints me a lot, but my faith is buoyed by the saints who volunteer every week to bring & cook & serve food; by those saints who sit at table with the homeless guests; by the folks who make sandwiches for the hungry.
There have been times when I have been down to my last dime at the end of the month & a meal on a Thursday evening has been most welcome. I thank god that I don’t live on the streets, but neither do I have the right to condemn the ones who do.
“Church” is people & people are the hands & feet of Christ.
And a church without works is dead.
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