Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
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Learning to See - October 7, 2018

Jeremiah 22:3
Proverbs 22:22-23
We live in a “me” culture—one that tells us that each issue and interaction and statement is about me. If we switch to default settings, it’s all about us—well, not really us—me. And of course for you—you—for John—John, for Amy—Amy, for each one it’s about themselves. And, if we aren’t careful—even as we learn the faith, we can interpret the scriptures through a very

self-involved lens.
(I know it sounds insulting—and that’s partly because in a “me” culture it’s all about us. And if I say something bothersome then it’s obviously about you. Right? But it’s not. It’s not all about you. Just like it’s not all about me.)
That’s why we are pausing this month to focus on more than us. We are striving to learn about how our faith challenges us—not in a bad way, not challenge in a bad way, but challenge in a good way. Our faith beckons us to live for more than just ourselves. And not just in the sense of caring for our families or our friends, but beyond that—strangers and others we may never meet. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s central to who we are and how we live.
Today, Tom and Sonya read 2 different scriptures that relate to caring for others—specifically the poor. They’re 2 passages that push on the main point of the day—we are called to care for the poor. But we’re not really digging into the passages themselves, so you could say it’s a bit of proof-texting—just pulling out the verse of scripture that says what I want it to say. But it’s more thoughtful than that—particularly because it’s not just these verses. 384 separate verses in the Bible mention the poor or poverty. And "Justice” appears in 1,379 separate verses in the Old and New Testament. Which is to say, the poor and poverty and justice are issues that are core to our faith. They’re not an afterthought. In fact, justice appears twice as many times as love! More often than love!!! This is more than proof-texting. This is learning the scriptures. Maybe these sounds more familiar:
Luke 4:17-19 (NIV)
“[Jesus] stood up to read, and [said]…: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’”
Luke 6:20-21 (NIV)
“Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.’”
Luke 12:33-34 (NIV)
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
1 Timothy 6:18 (NIV)
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

All of that is why we are here today. Because God calls us over and over again to care for others—particularly the poor, the oppressed and the weak. Caring for the poor can relate to what we do. And often we’re good at the "what". What do we do to help? We donate food. We give clothes. We give blankets. We stay overnight for family promise. We swing a hammer with Habitat for Humanity.
The problem with what is we can do it without actually being invested. We can do the right actions and feel good about it. But we can also do just enough what and then walk away. I’m guilty of this. Not proud of it. But if I can’t be honest and real, then I can’t ask you to be honest and real either. Right? Don’t get me wrong. The what matters. It’s how we learn to take steps in generosity and giving. The what matters because people need clothes and soaps, and blankets and jackets, and a roof over their head and flood buckets after the storm. The what matters. But if our what is not well grounded in a solid how…then we can offer care in ways that only emphasize difference. There are countless examples of how we have failed as Christians….
-The mission group that shows up to help in a poor neighborhood and totes along their $5 Starbucks and smart phones.
-The generous donors who give ripped and dirty clothes to the poor, or broken toys they’d never let their kids play with, but surely someone who is poor will be grateful.
-We even found, running a weekly food distribution, that what we gave people in food mattered. I don’t remember quite why, but I ended up in the home of a woman who had received food from the pantry…and while she was grateful, she was also frustrated. It was hard to make mac and cheese when she had neither milk nor butter. Hamburger helper would have been lovely, but she only got the box, not the hamburger and she couldn’t afford the hamburger. And chickpeas, Vienna sausages, and canned peaches hardly made for an enjoyable meal. Food in her belly maybe. But she wanted to cook a hot meal, to feel good about what she was eating, to enjoy the food and having a hodgepodge of items made that hard.
And we might be inclined to think if we were *that* hungry we’d be grateful for anything…that’s when the what is strong. We gave the food. They have the food. But there’s a piece missing…the how….the thing that helps us connect and empathize with other people. That woman made me think differently. It changed how we did food distribution in that church. We started asking, what can we put together to make a meal? We made sure to give sauce with the spaghetti. We switched from hamburger helper to tuna helper because we could do both the tuna helper and a can of tuna. We could do evaporated milk with the mac and cheese. We could do peanut butter and jelly with a loaf of bread or a box crackers. We were still doing the what….giving out food…but our how changed when we listened to the story of the woman.
How informs our position. Are we giving with grace and kindness? Are we giving in a way that empathizes and connects? Can we see ourselves in them in a way that helps us to give more, or at least more intentionally? Are we asking ourselves the question of what it means when we go into a neighborhood without running water, or reliable electricity, and never enough food on the table and yet we have a feast of food, our Starbucks drinks, and our smart phones? What message are we sending? How are we connecting with the people…not just what are we doing…but how.

You might ask about the why. The why matters too. Of course. It all matters. And for Christians, the why is fairly easy and straightforward…why do we help? Because of Jesus. Or because the Bible tells us to. Or because it’s the right thing to do. Our why matters. But even that doesn’t necessarily force us to examine our means…our how.
I think one of the ways the maturity of our faith is shown is by the depth of our how. Even the newest believer can do the what. Even the non-Christian can do the what. We aren’t the only people in the world who believe in helping others. But our how shapes us. It shows us people in a new light.
Let me give you another example. When we first started going to the Gulf Coast to help after Hurricane Katrina, we were working with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and each team participated in an orientation on Sunday night. We learned about the work for the week, some of the issues people in the area were facing and the expectations for us for the week. All of us came to work. All of us came to help in whatever way we could. And most of us were focused on WHAT we would do. Would we be painting? Or roofing? Or doing drywall? What would we do to help. And the leaders stopped us to say, “you’re healing hearts and homes.” Sometimes your work will focus on the house…the repairs, the construction. But you are also there to help heal hearts…the how of our work….if your homeowner wants to talk to you, stop and listen. A lot of us saw that as a distraction, so we tried to keep the conversation brief before we got back to work…the real work. But the leadership was clear, healing hearts is REAL work. And it matters. It’s the how…listening is what conveys compassion and grace, understanding and care for those whose lives were rocked in so many ways. So we had to slow down, do the what of construction as was necessary, but also the how of listening and seeing and learning the stories….the stories that became a part of what we would share when we got home. One story that was shared with our group was incredibly powerful for me. A black woman from Mississippi shared how, growing up black in the South, crosses and fire were particularly vile. They stood for hate and racism and persecution of the black community. But then Katrina happened. And the United Methodist Church came and our vans all had a cross with fire….the cross and flame…the symbol of our denomination….and after weeks and weeks, months and months of caring and compassionate volunteers…bearing the cross and flame…it began to hold different meaning. It became a sign of hope and help…not hate and racism.
We have the power to change the world…to transform symbols of darkness into symbols of light and love both with WHAT we do but also with HOW we go about it.

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322 East Third Street
Moscow, ID 83843


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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...

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