Against the unjust and unseen systems of the world, we can feel quite helpless. This was my feeling on Sunday night. I was seated behind the sound board in the sanctuary running audio for the Haywood Choral Society while they sang a multi-movement work about the “Good King Wenceslas.” This Christmas Carol is likely familiar to you. It tells the story of the Czech noble and his charity for a poor, cold, and restless peasant around the time of the Feast of St. Stephen (which actually falls the day immediately following Christmas and the subject of a whole other pastoral post…someday:). The Haywood Choral Society sang beautifully. The music magically captured the legend and tenderly delivered its message: when your life is interrupted by those deemed the least of this world, you are face to face with Jesus.
Shortly before the concert, I and another staff member tried to help a local homeless man, we’ll call him Kevin, find some shelter for the night. The shelter set up for people like Kevin wouldn’t admit him. Perhaps they had a good reason. And so, this man came back to church and listened to the concert with many of us. If you were there, you likely saw him moving about. Perhaps he talked to you. Perhaps he annoyed you. Perhaps both. He certainly annoyed me. But, in all honesty, the irony was what really annoyed me. I mean, here I was, listening to a song about such uncommon charity that we still sing it 1,200 years later. All while Kevin sat and listened and contemplated the looming reality that he might spend the night outdoors.
In the end, as far as I know, Kevin did spend his night outdoors. I wish that hadn’t happened. I wish I could have helped him more. I wish Kevin had been more easy to help. But, regardless of any of that, no one deserves to sleep outdoors.
Friends, I share this story, as I experienced it, for one reason: “Work ye yet while it is day!” Last Tuesday, our church partnered with Manna Food Bank to bring food to hungry homes in Haywood County. Nearly 500 individuals in 200 homes were served. Our church has also recently made new inroads into homelessness and food insecurity through our weekly Saturday Food Pantry and Showers. I am told that we are the only such ministry in Haywood County on Saturdays.
Over the last month and half, you have heard inspiring stories about the ministry of this church. These stories were told because it was pledge time and we wanted to remind the you of some of the things that your financial gifts go to support. In response, we had a very strong showing on commitment Sunday two weeks ago! And yet, when you pledge to First United Methodist Church of Waynesville, you give not only to what we’ve done and what we will continue to do, but you also give to what God might dream up next!
What might it be? Perhaps it will be a better connected support network for those experiencing grief and loss. Perhaps we can create a staff position committed to fostering more health and wellness. Perhaps we can do everything we can to help students be the first in their family to go to college – imagine that!
Dear church, I just have to say it. Stewardship season ain’t done yet! Against the unjust and unseen systems of the world, the church is anything but helpless. Work ye yet while it is day because no one deserves to spend the night outdoors.