The Poor in Body and Spirit Are Always With Us
Jesus once said, “You always have the poor with you (Mt 26:11, Mk 14:7).” This teaching, which has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, has been very much on my mind.
This week I have been participating in the November Rainbow Corps visit to New Orleans sponsored each year by More Light Presbyterians and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to help rebuild homes in this city still struggling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This is the third time I have joined in this service to others; this trip, like those past, has been thought provoking and humbling.
For years, volunteer groups such as mine have been coming in week after week to rebuild the city for those who have been abandoned by commercial or governmental agencies. The volunteers have made a difference — New Orleans is a bit brighter now than it was three years ago. Sadly, there is still seemingly endless amounts to do.
This week my group of three framed closet doors, removed doors that had been poorly installed by last week’s volunteers and began installing base boards. Others in our crew built shelves, laid and grouted tile or installed kitchen cabinets. The days of labor amidst the empty cement pads, which once were homes, and the still blighted houses on the street where we worked, made me realize that this effort is truly a leap of faith.
As Jesus taught us, there will always be poverty in the world. But perhaps that is what we are meant to learn: That the purpose of volunteering, of giving, is not to end poverty, but to share God’s love here on earth by helping one another.
1 John says, “Beloved, love one another for love is from God” (4:1). As my arms ached at the end of each day, it seemed to me that John could just as easily have said, “Help one another, for help is from God.”
And as I am helping the poor here in New Orleans, I trust that God will also inspire others to help those we’ve robbed of their spiritual homes, GLBT people in our churches and in our neighborhoods. Just as we show God’s love to the poor here in New Orleans by giving of our time and the work of our hands, we can show God’s love to our GLBT brothers and sisters by opening our hearts to their stories, which so often include the painful experience of being shunned by their church families.
God’s love becomes infinite in this world when we help one another in just these ways. We in the church are the body of Christ, God’s arms and legs in this world, who literally embody God’s love. God’s love multiplies when we share it with others, especially those in obvious need like the homeowner in St. Bernard Parish or the GLBT Presbyterian who is afraid to come out in his or her congregation. These concrete acts are the way we love one another and how God abides in us, even as we know the poor will always be with us.