During the entire month of May we will be collecting funds to support St. Stephen’s Food Pantry with a Mountain of Food. Envelopes will be available the first two Sunday of May in the bulletins. Please be generous!
Remember to bring your non-perishable food items to church on April 22nd! The scouts will be collecting and distributing it to various food programs throughout Madison. Also remember our Mountain of Food Campaign next month!
Jim Wallis is one of America’s premier preachers and pastors. He is the leader of the Sojourners Community, a social justice organization intentionally located in a poor inner city neighborhood in WashingtonDC. After living in that neighborhood for more than twenty years, Wallis found himself one day the victim of a mugging. Preoccupied with an upcoming speaking engagement, Jim failed to “watch his back” as he turned the corner on a deserted street, and by the time he heard the sound of feet running behind him, it was too late. As he turned around he was hit by something sharp enough to open a gash over one eye, and he immediately felt blood running down his face. Several hands pushed him to the ground, and he could hear one of the assailants shout, Keep him down! Get his wallet! Take his money!
Popping up quickly to face the muggers, Jim discovered that there were four of them, all young teenagers, no one more than fourteen years of age. The youth circled Jim, and the youngest one, who couldn’t have been more than twelve years old, clearly had watched a lot of television, because he began to flail away at Jim with earnest but ineffectual karate kicks. Noting that the youth weren’t carrying weapons, Jim decided to confront them with what they were doing. Stop it! Just stop it! Jim scolded them. You guys have got to quit terrorizing people like this. The young teens, taken by surprise, dropped their hands, so Jim continued, I’m a pastor. You boys want to try and beat up a pastor and take his money? Come on ahead. Take your best shot. At that they fled down the street, but the little karate kicker turned back, looking directly in Jim’s eyes with a sad expression and saying in a sincere voice, Pastor, ask God for a blessing for me!
Jim Wallis says this: Who among us does not yearn for a blessing from God? Even those we are tempted to write off as too tough, too entrenched in their destructive behavior – buried deep beneath the hardened exterior there s a yearning for a blessing. Whether a troubled youth, one struggling with addiction, or the “respectable” person fearful of giving voice to his or her own inner struggle – whatever our situation in life, we ache to know God’s blessing.
Jesus was a man very much aware that the whole world “aches” for God’s blessing. In this Season of Easter we hear such wonderful stories about his Apostles bringing the blessing of God to a world “aching” for such a gift. They stand before Gentiles and Jews, they stand before Roman centurions and jailers, they stand before judges and tribunals, and even in the face of death, they bring the blessing of God. And of course forty days after Easter we find Jesus standing with his disciples at the moment of the Ascension and he tells them to go out and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn’t say: Hey guys, bring my blessing to just the good folks, those who are deserving, and those you love – NO – Jesus says: Go out to the whole world and baptize…bring God’s blessing. Jesus was aware that the world, the whole world aches for that blessing.
What a tremendous challenge for us as we strive to live like Easter people! It’s easy enough to pray for and bless the people whom we love in our lives. The harder part is to bless those whom we don’t even know. We dismiss so easily the co-worker who is irritating or the loud mouth at a football game, or the thoughtless driver who cuts us off. What if we took these opportunities to bless them? What if we asked God to bless them? Would we not be carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus? We dismiss so easily the immigrant, and the person who doesn’t speak English, and the homeless and the one asking for a handout. What if we offered more than our tolerance? What if we asked God to bless them? Would we not be carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus? We dismiss so easily the ex-spouse, the ex-partner, and the ex-friend. What is we took a moment to bless them? What if we put aside our bitterness and hurt and simply prayed that God might bless them? Would we not be carrying out the Great Commission of Jesus? Even more, we might find that we have been blessed in the blessing of others.
Easter is the Season to remember again the Great Commission of Jesus – a commission that he gives to each of us – we are called to bring the blessings of God to the whole world, to a world that “aches” for blessing!