James 2:2-7Common English Bible (CEB) Imagine two people coming into your meeting. One has a gold ring and fine clothes, while the other is poor, dressed in filthy rags. Then suppose that you were to take special notice of the one wearing fine clothes, saying, “Here’s an excellent place. Sit here.” But to the poor person you say, “Stand over there”; or, “Here, sit at my feet.”
Wouldn’t you have shown favoritism among yourselves and become evil-minded judges?
My dear brothers and sisters, listen! Hasn’t God chosen those who are poor by worldly standards to be rich in terms of faith? Hasn’t God chosen the poor as heirs of the kingdom he has promised to those who love him? You do well when you really fulfill the royal law found in scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself.
Mark 7:31-37 “They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
They were astonished, blown away, upended. Hunh, fancy that…. Did you hear what Jesus just did? I know he said to keep it quiet, but did you ever??? What on earth is God up to? It seems like the tables are always being turned.
Did you hear where in the wisdom writings (Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23) it says: The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. Hunh, Fancy that
And then: Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Hunh, Fancy That
Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. Hunh, Fancy That
When the Psalmist sings, the lyrics speak of a God ….. who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. a LORD sets the prisoners free; 146:7 Hunh, Fancy That
The problem of course, our problem, is that the things most often catching our fancy get in the way of what God fancies to be truly important. There are so many fancy things that glitter and tempt and seem utterly essential to our happiness. And we ourselves feel poor when our experience doesn’t measure up to what’s dangled before us.
I saw a catchy book title this week-“Under the Affluence” by Tim Wise. I've been trying to use the library more and buy less, but I may have to break the rule for that one.
John Wesley’s life changed entirely when he realized that Jesus wasn’t just speaking metaphorically but literally about how important the poor are to God. AND that the same people Jesus was talking about were just outside his own front door.
It turned him right around. It repented him. Fancy that. That seeing another’s need could save one of the great preachers of his day.
Most of the United States lives in economically segregated neighborhoods today. We are more likely to encounter a poor person on the other side of our car door, or as a stranger on the sidewalk, than in our neighborhood. When our common sense tells us to walk away, its time to double check our common sense.
The distance between most of us and the truly poor has grown, even in an economically integrated state like Maine. We think of the obvious poor, those out on the streets. But the hidden poor are all around us.
They are elders trying to hold onto their houses with rising tax rates. They are young parents working multiple shifts to feed and cloth and house their children. They are students working to avoid tuition debt.
How do we get close enough to know a struggling person as a person?
Here's how one guy did it. Willie Baronet wanted to find a way to connect with people who were homeless in his Dallas Community. One day he thought to ask, Can I buy your sign?" That one sign became a series of signs and conversations that now stretch across the world and invite others into the experience by showing the signs massed as murals. "Every person's story is unique," Wille learned.
How do we get close enough to know a struggling person as a person? It begins with looking someone in the eye, greeting them, Treating them as honorably as any other human being. It begins with not assuming that we already know what we need to know about them. Or that we could never be in that situation, whatever the struggle is. It begins when we make time to stop for a minute.
Jesus stopped and noticed the deaf man that day. Then he went one step further. He touched him. In a strange and uncomfortable way Jesus touched him.
Some of you interact with the poor at work. Some of you interact with the poor in the ways you volunteer. Help the rest of us see. Don’t be silent about the real people you meet, respect their privacy, but make their strengths and challenges known. Bear witness.
The Pew Research Center and others have identified what counteracts poverty: *meaningful work, *opportunity to improve your life and the life of those you love, *and hope.
So let’s practice, people of faith in the Jesus who stops and notices. 1) Let's notice our favoritisms, prejudices and conditioned responses this week. 2) Let's choose where we look. Choose our responses. 3) Let's let the wisdom of faithful memory depend its roots with this memory verse -You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." James 2:8