From the Pastor’s Desk, March 2017

Taken from the The Canton Chronicle 2017, Vol. #2

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. 3When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,[a] stand up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. –Acts 3:1-10 (NRSV)

I am currently doing a self study of the book of Acts using a commentary on Acts written by William Sanford LaSor. LaSor’s thoughts on verses 3-6 of Acts chapter 3 caught my eye. He perceives Peter saying to the man with a handicap, “We do not have money to keep you in your present condition but we do have something to get you out of this condition.” LaSor then adds that our business as the church is not to make the condition of suffering people more bearable, rather it is our task in this world to release the redemptive work of God in Christ into their lives.

A thought came to my mind as a result of LaSor’s commentary. Giving money is often a default and simple, easy maneuver in assisting those who suffer. But what is the long-range effect of a few dollars upon the one being assisted? Do a few dollars only make the problem a little more bearable for a short period of time, and once the money is used, is the individual back in the same difficult place? I see this as the outcome too frequently, yet I am one who contributes to such an outcome because I feel more adequately equipped to give a few dollars than I do to bring to those suffering the gift of redemptive healing.

Putting money aside and connecting at a deeper level with the one in need may be a more appropriate response. In doing so, we learn more about their circumstances. It could be that the person we share with had little if any parental support and guidance growing up, or the loss of a job has depleted savings and employment opportunities are likely improbable. Maybe an illness has cause permanent disability. Granted, money is frequently needed, but relationships are essential. Through human interaction, specific assistance can be acquired helping to lift those suffering to a higher plane, to a level of productivity and engagement that offers a new lease on life.

Fulton County, IL, has residents living at or below the poverty line. Sharing money with impoverished family’s may only help them remain at that place, but offering to enter into their lives in some manner may be a catalyst that raises them to a more sustainable way of living.

On Thursday, March 23, 2017, at 7:00 pm, a Forum on Poverty is being held at the Canton Church of the Brethren with panelists from a variety of county and community organizations and agencies coming together to discuss opportunities and strategies for entering into redemptive work. If this sounds exciting, join the conversation that evening. And together we may engage in doing something that will help the impoverished live into a more sustainable and vital condition.

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