Rise & Shine - December 23
How do we protect the poor? How are we failing them?
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's discussion outline can be read or downloaded below.
Rise & Shine, December 23rd
III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).
THEREFORE, WE REJECT the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34). We won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich. Budgets are moral documents. We commit ourselves to opposing and reversing those policies and finding solutions that reflect the wisdom of people from different political parties and philosophies to seek the common good. Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest.
In the News
Displaced Church for the Homeless Moving to "Fixer Upper" Property in 2019
The Church Under the Bridge (CUB) in Waco, Texas, will soon have to vacate the space under Interstate 35 where it has been meeting for worship since 1992 so the Texas Department of Transportation can widen the bridge over the next three to five years. The church's founder and pastor, Jimmy Dorrell, who teaches at Baylor University and founded the charity Mission Waco, said "The Texas Department of Transportation is remodeling our place at no charge to us. You can't beat that."
Plans for the bridge project include adding better traffic control features and lighting to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. Lower curbs will improve access for the handicapped, and the lane widening of the bridge will expand "the roof" over the congregation, which will keep people dry when it rains.
The CUB, defines its call as "to be church to the unchurched … to the poor and marginalized, … the mentally ill, … addicted, unemployed, and otherwise struggling people." Church leaders de-emphasize outward appearances and seek "to provide acceptance and access … friendliness and concern … respect and dignity" to all attendees, regardless of their background or life experience.
Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of the HGTV home-improvement reality series Fixer Upper, have offered the church the use of their property four block away, Magnolia Market at the Silos, for Sunday worship during the bridge reconstruction.
Leta Johnson, 60, a former underwater welder who lives in a house with no electricity or running water, is concerned that the Gaines' property may be too high-brow for some attendees. Currently it's extremely easy to get to CUB, and people can come and go as they please. While at Magnolia, guests will have to use a defined single entrance, which some feel may deter people from participating.
"This is for people who don't have clothes, that are embarrassed to go to church, that ain't got a shower," said Johnson, who struggles with addiction. "You're taking a lot away from us by redoing this bridge. Move us to another bridge, why can't you? Sending us to a tourist attraction isn't what we want."
Robert Walker, 50, who has attended CUB for 20 years except when he was in prison, said the current location is "sacred ground" for him, where "people loved [him] when [he] didn't love [himself]." As long as they "keep the body (of Christ) together, wherever we are … [and] allow the Spirit to usher in and the Bible to be preached," Walker thinks they'll survive.
Over the years, many people have expressed surprise about how they sensed God's presence in what some might view as an unlikely setting for encounters with God. If the new location doesn't work out, Dorrell said they'll explore other options. "If the poor don't show up, we'll move," he said, "because we're there for the poor."Ultimately the church expects to return to its home under the bridge, Dorrell said."If we have extra people show up [at Magnolia], for whatever reason, that will be a byproduct we love," Dorrell said. "But we're there for the people who don't feel welcome."
The church describes itself on its website as "An ordinary church made holy by His presence ... black, white, brown, rich and poor, educated in the streets and in the university, all worshiping the living God, who makes us one." Over the years, many people have expressed surprise about how they sensed God's presence in what some might view as an unlikely setting for encounters with God.
The church website states that the church strives to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit under the lordship of Jesus Christ, seeking to overcome "denominational, cultural, economic or racial" barriers by welcoming people from various backgrounds "to love God … with all their heart, soul and mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves."The church is committed to embrace "all racial and economic backgrounds in membership and leadership."
"It's fun to look out on Sunday morning to see black and white, rich and poor. People working on their Ph.D. will be sitting next to someone who can't spell their own name," Dorrell said.
More on this story can be found at these links:
Church Under the Bridge Home Page.Churchunderthebridge.org
Church Under the Bridge Celebrates 25 Years (Video - 2:35).Lariat TV News
Waco's Church Under The Bridge (Video - 3:57).YouTube
'Fixer Upper' Stars Chip and Joanna Gaines to Host Church For the Homeless.Religion News Service
Magnolia Silos to Host Church Under The Bridge During I-35 Work.Waco Tribune-Herald
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (For context, read 2:4-20.)
Luke tells us that when Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord announced his birth, not to kings and prophets, but to working-class people, shepherds on the night shift.As philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, "The medium is the message."
In a way, meeting God with a peculiar mix of people at a worship service under an interstate bridge might be akin to meeting God at a manger, surrounded by the working poor who are just struggling to survive.
Questions: How does the way God sent his message into the world (the medium God used) convey and confirm the content of that message?
Matthew 25: 37-40
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (For context, read 25:31-46.)
At the core of it, few Christians would argue that we should care for the poor. However, when it comes to how to do this many vehemently disagree.
Questions: How do we, the church, do a good job of protecting the poor? Where are we failing them?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (For context, read 4:16-30.)
Questions: What does it mean for us to “bring good news to the poor?”
Prayer for the Poor and Neglected (BCP p.826)
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.