Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quote(s) of the Day

"Out of necessity, the black church rarely had the luxury of separating individual salvation from collective salvation. It had to serve as the center of the community's political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life; it understood in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In the history of these struggles, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world. In the day-to-day work of the men and women I met in church each day, in their ability to 'make a way out of no way' and maintain hope and dignity in the direst of circumstances, I could see the Word made manifest. (Pg. 207)

It was because of these newfound understandings - that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved - that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth. (Pg. 208)

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten-point plan. They are also rooted in societal indifference and individual callousness - the desire among those at the top of the social ladder to maintain their wealth and status whatever the cost, as well as the despair and self-destructiveness among those at the bottom of the social ladder. Solving these problems will require changes in government policy; it will also require changes in hearts and minds. (Pg. 215)

From: The Audacity Of Hope, Barack Obama.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

Last night we spent three hours sorting through boxes that had been donated to Operation Christmas Child for distribution to children in need around the world. As I inspected the litany of dolls and balls, clothes and crayons, toys and toothbrushes, I was struck by two things: the amount of care that went into purchasing and packing some of the boxes, and secondly, the absolute lack of thought that went into others.

Some boxes contained notes with greetings such as, "My Dear Little Boy..." or "Precious Daughter of God...", often including family photos of smiling mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and the occasional family pet. It quickly became obvious that these were packed with much care as a family project to help another family in a less fortunate part of the world. More than likely a lesson about the importance of giving to the needy was included as part of the process. My heart was warmed as I thought of the child in Senegal, El Salvador, etc. receiving their package with such sincere Canadian greetings inside not to mention the valuable lesson that would be learned about giving from our abundance.

And then there were the other boxes...

There weren't many of them, but I did come across boxes filled with used toys and ancient, half-used notepads, not to mention the stuffed animals with grey, dirty ears. In my indignation I pulled the toys out of the box and showed them to my work partner. We just shook our heads and groused about how anyone could do such a thing and that it would be better if they'd sent nothing at all. I can be awfully good at righteous indignation.

It wasn't until the drive home that the thought occurred to me that it's possible these boxes were packed with every bit as much love as the pristine, new boxes, but that they came from families who had nothing else to give. I certainly don't know this for a fact, but maybe, just maybe, that well-loved rabbit with the dirty ears or the chipped toy cars were the last toys that a child had to give. And just maybe, in giving those toys away, he or she gave away something far more valuable than the dollar store finds in the other boxes.

We so often give from our abundance but not many of us are required to truly sacrifice in our giving. But isn't that what Christmas is all about? Jesus was born in a stable under filthy, stinking conditions. It was no place for a baby to be born, let alone the Son of God. But God gave everything, in a shoddy package no less, for us all. It was a sacrifice not made from abundance, this was after all His "only begotten Son," but from His immense love. And every day, if we will only take the time to slow down and listen, we can still hear the words:

My Dear Little Boy...

Precious Daughter of God...

This Christmas, won't you take the time to listen?