I stood up in front of the couple of hundred people in the regional mid-week SA worship service and told them that the cost of just one of the new tubas behind me would could feed 300 families for a week. *mic drop*
I don’t think I made many friends.
Young. Idealistic. Out of a background of hardship on a West Scotland council estate, with a key saving grace of loving, caring grandparents. Fast forward and I was standing on a raised platform in one of Glasgow’s poorest communities with probably more than £30K worth of musical instruments sat behind me, with hundreds of Salvationists in their £200 Sally Army uniform suits and I felt the seeming injustice of it all.
Twenty years later, the elevator effect has lifted me too. Lovely family. Decent job. Respectable member of the community: minister, no less. Nice new car. Bucket of Apple products. Kids that don’t want for much. I’m not ungrateful but the inequalities of our society scream loudly if you listen.
I’ve heard all the ‘views’ about how families get into poverty traps. I’ve seen many of the realities over the years in my work. I know the underbelly of the fight for survival in the benefits culture. And I think of the children.
I remember the faces and the stories of the children of Glasgow and Aberdeen and Newcastle and Bristol and…
Born into families through no choice of there own. It’s not their fault as if fault should be the first thing that is apportioned anyway.
And then you listen to the preoccupations of governments and churches…and the cymbals clang and clash because the hearts don’t bleed enough for the cause of the poor and the oppressed among us. And God hears the cries of the people.
‘Remember the poor’ is a key theme of mission and it’s where I start this Thursday Mission-featured Blog. I believe Jesus primarily resides among ‘the poor’ – those on the peripheries of things. I know that because every time I’ve been there he never fails to appear…in the eyes of the child, or the beaten mother or the out of work father or the grandma trying to keep 8 grandkids afloat. I remember all the ways he appeared to me in the kindness of others in my childhood.
‘Whatever you do for the least of these’ says Jesus, ‘you do it for me.’
I’ve yet to find an alternative, more comfortable, way to interpret that which might just ease the weight of it. But no. The passage goes on to say that it will even be some sort of plumbline measurement someday. Serious stuff.
Pure religion takes care of widows and orphans. It leaves food at the edge of the field for them that can’t pay for it. It cancels the debts of the debtors, it heals the wounds, it binds the hearts and it restores what the prisoners are banished for and it bestows beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning.
At one point in the brilliant film ‘Angela’s Ashes’ the school master tells the boys off for teasing one kid who has no shoes.
‘Do you see the Lord Jayzus hangin’ on the Cross sportin’ shoes?!’
‘What don’t you see, children?’
‘You don’t see the Lord Jayzus on the Cross sportin’ shoes, sir!’
Jesus is the 10 year old daughter of a depressed single Mum, living on £30 spare to feed her kids for a week, who cries herself to sleep clutching her teddy.
How do you worship that Jesus? I think you know. I do.