Category Archives: God’s Children

matthew-25-give-hungry

We are not a Matthew 25 Ministry

I have seen several ministries that label themselves “a Matthew 25 ministry.” This irritates me as it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel and a misreading of Matthew 25. Matthew 25 is where Jesus speaks of the final judgment where he separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are those who have visited Him when he  was sick or in prison or fed him when he was hungry or clothed him when he was naked and the goats are those who did not do these things. Everyone asks “when did we do this” or “not do this”. He responds “when you did … or did not, do it unto the least of these my brothers.” Everybody is surprised. This indicates that this is not something one can plan ahead to do.

We cannot pay for our salvation. “All of our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.” I do not serve the homeless to earn heaven. That’s preposterous, and on some level it is insulting to the people I serve. The best answer I can give any more as to why I serve is that it makes me happy. I have said for years that I do this because I am selfishly doing what makes me happy and I mean it. God created us to do good works. Ephesians 2:10. Everyone in the evangelical camp likes to quote 2:8-9, but they forget verse 10 which is the conclusion.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

So I’m just trying to walk in the good works that God prepared for me to do. It’s what I was made for. It’s the happiest place I could possibly be.

I serve them. Hopefully, I help equip others to serve. Many of them serve me in encouragement, friendship and prayer. We learn in some small way to be God’s family, perhaps.

We work. We pray. We laugh. We cry. We struggle. We hope.

In the end, perhaps we may be surprised by grace.

Thank you for your prayers and your support. God bless you.



bowchildren

“Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, …”

bowchildren
I don’t know if it’s wisdom, but I am crying non-stop these days. By non-stop, I mean 24/7. My cheeks are wet during the day. My pillow is soaked during the night. I have been asked why I cry. The answer is: I don’t know. Is it because of depression, my Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the pain in my back, the general sad state of affairs in the world, the general sad state of affairs in the church, the school shootings, not being able to meet the needs of my friends on the street, … ?

I have been trying for weeks to write a fundraising post for The King’s Jubilee, something positive and encouraging. I am paralyzed with grief every time I try to write. I finally decided to go with it. We have about $250 per month in regular donations. That just about covers auto expenses. We need 10 times that to continue the ministry. I have worked 3/4 time to full time for 25 years with no pay and few vacations. (We had our first vacation, a weekend in DE, in 9 years, last week, due to the generosity of friends.) I am not complaining. I am just spelling things out. There is more than “just Thursday night” going on here. People get upset with me. People believe lies told about me. People disagree with my politics. They punish the poor and homeless by withdrawing support to the ministry.

I will tell you a dirty little secret. Everyone who has served the poor as long as I have has roughly the same politics as I do. I will tell you another dirty little secret. Christians should stop wasting their money on politics. We can make a bigger difference in setting the pace in direct ministry, in Jesus’ Name.

Every dollar given to this ministry is helping the poor and homeless in one form or another. We receive no government or corporate support. We are not hosted by any given church. We depend on your alms. God bless you.



funeralflowers

Flowers for Bunny

I didn’t post what music I was listening to as I made soup yesterday on Facebook. The kitchen was silent. There were no good choices. I was in my kitchen while Brownie was in Phila. funeralizing his wife, “Bunny”. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of a volunteer and supporter who knows how to do such things, The King’s Jubilee was able to provide flowers for the funeral. I have known Brownie for over 20 years. I met him in prison, then caught up with him on the street. He and Bunny, Marilyn Ledger, have been faithfully married for over 14 years by mutual declaration and common law. He stuck with her and cared for her through her battle with cancer. He came out to ask me for prayer for her in December. Last week, when she died, he was beside himself with grief. He had no money for flowers for his beloved and wanted to make sure their were flowers. He remembered the few times that I drove him and Bunny home on cold nights and was so grateful. Memory Eternal.

Pray for Brownie that he will find a way to move forward. Another thing, we need new dishes for him, preferably unbreakable ones. He smashed all his when he got the call from the hospital that Bunny had died in her sleep.

backdraft

I paint with flowers.

I am back at it with the next in our Lily Gilding series. I don’t paint daylilies. I paint with them. This is a photograph of a Backdraft Daylily, from last summer, right next to our front step, sort of. I modified it using several filters and adjustments, then cropped it just right. I call it Phoenix as it shows the persistence of new life and hope, even in the midst of entropy and crumbling bricks.

When you buy one of these limited edition prints or Zazzle products, know that this is exactly what you are promoting and enabling through the proceeds at The King’s Jubilee. Each time you look at it, be emboldened to hope and to pray for positive change that we may rise from the ashes of our fallenness to see in each and every man, woman and child, a sister or a brother, worthy of dignity, respect, and care.

phoenix

This is a copyrighted piece of original art. It is not to be printed without express permission of the artist. It may only be shared in the complete context of this article, please!  It is quite striking at full size, 12″ x 12″. This is a very limited edition of ten numbered, signed pieces. Please inquire at tkj@shoutforjoy.net for prices and details.

Peace,
Cranford Joseph Coulter

igloo

He wanted to lick the inside of the Igloo cooler!

Someone gave us a fully cooked ham that had not been frozen, so I decided to make split pea and ham soup for last week. We always have a large turkey roasting pan with a vegetarian alternative and a pot of spaghetti with meat sauce, so there would be options for those who do not eat pork. The soup I made was not their grandma’s split pea & ham. Ask my wife. I never do any thing the simple way. I’ll write the recipe, then I will get back to the rest of the story.

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts home made chicken broth
  • 2 pounds dried black eyed peas
  • 5-20 ounce bags green split peas
  • 2 pounds yellow split peas
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • ~ 5 or 6 medium sized, sweet onions, diced
  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 1/2 head of celery
  • 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sage
  • 3 quarts water
  • ~ 2 cubic inches grated, fresh ginger root
  • ~ 8 pounds of fully cooked, reduced sodium ham
  • 35 twists of medium grind fresh black pepper

Directions:

Rinse the black eyed peas. Dump into a large sauce pan with 3 quarts of boiling water and boil for a few minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Heat up the chicken broth in a 22 quart stock pot. Rinse the split peas in a colander and add to the stock pot. Press the garlic into the pot. Stir frequently. Add water. Grate ginger into the pot. Whisk the peas vigorously.  Add the turmeric and sage and whisk in. As soon as the peas are cooked, mushy and thoroughly blended, transfer the stock pot into the double boiler, canner set up. Wash and cut up the carrots and throw them into a food processor on chop.  They should be finely chopped. Add to the pot. Do the same for the celery. Rinse the black eyed peas in a colander and add them to the pot, stirring them in. Cut the ham into bite sized pieces and add to the pot. Grind the pepper into the pot. Stir everything together.  It should by just about 1″ shy of the top of the stock pot and very thick. Make sure the canner does not run out of water. Keep it bubbling for hours until you are ready to transfer it to the Igloo cooler or Cambro to take it to the street or fellowship hall.

Plantains1OK. I started the black eyed peas about 7:30am. About 9:30am, Kevin Paige arrived to help chop for the soup. About 3:30, April and the grandsons arrived with the Vegetarian Mofongo to put in the oven. About 4:30pm, I went to Giant to get iced tea, including  some unsweetened for the diabetics. Then I made sure the TKJ-mobile was stocked and ready.  About 6pm, we had dinner. About 6:30pm, I recorded the temperature of the soup at 168º & transferred it into the Igloo cooler. We made sure I had a serving spoon and ladle and put those in the vehicle. About 6:45pm Brian Simpson  arrived and another car with sandwiches arrived. We finished loading the TKJ-mobile; did a final check: “two sets of keys, Alex’s mail, any phones for Alex, ladle, spoon, hot sauce, hand washing station, brain: optional.” “We’re good.”

By 7pm, we headed off to Philadelphia with 22 quarts of soup, a huge roaster pan of mofongo, a couple hundred meat and cheese sandwiches, 9-1/2 gallons of iced tea, hot sauce, salt, pepper, assorted clothes, etc. Folks from Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Elkins Park, PA, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Wilmington, DE,  Holy Ascension Antiochian Orthodox Church, Downingtown, PA, St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA, and Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, Phila., PA, were there set up, ready to serve with spaghetti with meat sauce, more sandwiches, oranges, bananas, apples, hard boiled eggs, pastries, toiletries, Greek Easter cookies, candy bars, bags, etc.

We finished setting up. Everyone who needed to washed their hands and got their gloves on. People were in their positions. Fr. Chris gave the blessing and we started serving.

I loaded up a bag with a bunch of oranges to go to the back of the line to give them away from the back to the front. I didn’t get very far before I saw Morris. It was like seeing a ghost! I still have his number on my cellphone, but I have several dead people’s names and numbers on my cellphone. Soon they will outnumber the living I was just telling myself on Tuesday of last week. We used to talk regularly. I would check in with Morris on a regular basis. Then there was no answer. Then the phone was cut off. I did search the obituaries, but that is not always foolproof. I have kept praying for Morris regardless. We keep praying for our loved ones whether in this world or the next. Death does not stop love. Morris is a survivor of Desert Storm and has some serious cancers from the chemical warfare that the US used there that the VA doesn’t want to admit to or deal with. The last time we spoke in person we talked about that and he was really down.

On Thursday, I told him I was so glad to see him and that I thought he was dead. He shouldn’t disappear like that. He told me that he finally got help for his PTSD and was hospitalized for depression and finally got the right meds and got things straightened out. He said, “Do you see me? I’m smiling!” I said, “Yes! You look beautiful!” This isn’t the kind of response this macho veteran would usually tolerate. From me, though … he gave me a big sheepish grin, with a tear in his eye.

Morris asked me how I was doing. (He knew all about my health problems. We’re friends.) I told him that I was finally getting treatment for my PTSD. It was a step in the right direction. Two other men were listening and they joined in. They, too, had PTSD. One was a veteran and one was not. The one who was not was a bit apologetic about it and the two veterans were quick to say, “You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD!” We ended up having a little support group right there in the line until we got up to the bench where the food was being served. Then I went back and gave away the rest of the oranges.

bollards
bollards

I then took up my usual position as a bollard, informing the folks of what was in the food. We ran out of spaghetti. Then we ran out of mofongo. Then we were almost out of soup. One man came back, raving over the soup. He wanted more. Sean told him it was all gone. The man asked who made it. I confessed. He said, “You sure put some love into it!” I told him to give me his spoon and hold his cup under the corner of the Igloo container as we prop it up. I scraped and scraped the last little bits of it into his cup. He said that he would lick the bottom of that cooler if he could! It was that good.

We finished serving. Everyone had plenty. We had more conversations with people. I ribbed Fr. Chris as usual. (I mean, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.) You have to love Fr. Christos and Presvy. Joanna! We packed up the TKJ-mobile, including three full grown men and their gear into the back seat to drop them off at their homes. We headed up N. Broad St. to drop off Mark, Anthony & Gregory. Then Brian deposited me and the TKJ-mobile at home a little after 10pm. Then he proceeded home to Perkasie.

I should also mention that we experienced a record number of crazy drivers on the road:  people who were texting who were trying to swerve into our lane;  a lady who pulled out and immediately tried to cross two lanes into the side of our car;  a truck who drove like a sportscar; people not stopping for emergency vehicles, etc. Pray for us as we travel.




dirtychurch

I prefer a dirty church.

dirtychurch

“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church that is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” – Pope Francis

I have been saying this for years, and getting in trouble for saying it. I suppose he is in a position that he can get away with it.

Here is something else to think about. My mom would frequently say to us when we were growing up, “You are known by the company you keep.” Yes. Jesus is known as a “friend of sinners.”

pharisees



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“The King’s Jubilee”

We marked our 25th anniversary in February for The King’s Jubilee. I wrote then about many of the ministries we have been involved in through the years. I think we are in need of a review as to the meaning of the name of this ministry, as it reveals its core purpose and direction. In the last couple of years, a few people have not understood this and it has led to conflict.

The first thing one should know is that it is “The King’s” Jubilee. We are not talking about King as in Martin Luther King. We are referring to The King of Kings, Jesus Christ. I have long said, that if I can’t do it in Jesus’ Name, I don’t have time to do it. Now the biblical concept of  doing something in someone’s name does not mean just saying the words. It means to act according to that person’s will. Nevertheless, to be sure to have the freedom to do this, we have never solicited nor will we ever accept government funding; nor do we solicit or accept any corporate or United Way funding that would require secularization of our services. Years ago a volunteer was pressured at his workplace for 100% participation in United Way. He designated $2,000 to The King’s Jubilee. We were told that if we so much as said a prayer of blessing or mentioned Jesus anywhere near anything we bought with the money, it would be a violation of their rules. We would have to keep separate accounts and have a completely secular program to use their money. I told them we could not comply with those ridiculous requirements. They never informed our volunteer of their decision not to forward the money according to his donor choice. I did.

On another note, it is the King’s because it is Christ’s love that compels us to serve. When I am asked by one of those we serve, why I keep coming after I have been mistreated by either some of the people or the police or the mayor, I say, “Jesus loves you. His love compels me to be here.” You see, I can’t always say that I love them. Now, after 25 years, I have grown to know and love some of them, but certainly not all of them. There are new faces each week, and my memory is not that strong, and I am not that holy. It would not be good news that I love them. Who am I? It is Good News that Jesus loves them. Of course, most of them are far better Christians than I am. The rest are better Muslims, or better Hindi, or better atheists, or better Buddhists. It is the King’s because this King lowered himself to become the servant of all. We go in a spirit of joy and a spirit of service. We endeavor to treat people with respect and dignity and kindness, the way we would like to be treated.

cropped-tkjprofile.jpgThis ministry did not just set out to serve homeless people on the streets. It is The King’s Jubilee. A major part of the Law of Moses had to do with the sabbath years and the year of jubilee, or sabbath of sabbaths, every 50 years. This was all about healing and second chances and radical redistribution of wealth. Every seventh year, all the slaves were to be freed for the year in order for them to be given a chance to earn enough to buy back their freedom. The land was given a rest to let it restore itself, as well. Every 50 years, all debts were cancelled; slaves were set free; the land was returned to its original owners or their heirs. This was not an optional or “freewill” plan. It was to be part of the government. If a man did not comply, he was to lose his inheritance completely and no longer be a citizen of Israel. However the Israelites never really kept these years. They were very important to God, however. So important, in fact, that God caused the nation to go into captivity for every one of these years they failed to keep.

You see, the Law of Moses was to be a model government for the nations of a direction toward mercy, toward economic equality, toward elimination of slavery. The year of jubilee was a type of the coming of the Lord. There are jubilary psalms that start with “Shout for joy” or “Lift a shout!” The jubilee year started with the sounding of the horn and a mighty shout from all the people. We hear this again in the culmination of the age in the Revelation to St. John in the sounding of the trumpets. It is a signal that God is finally making all things right. Justice is being meted out. Well, Jesus is the King. In his first public message, he referenced Isaiah 61 which is about “the acceptable year of the Lord.” It is a “jubilee song” speaking of the final jubilee to which all the 50 year jubilees pointed. He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He proclaimed Himself and his church to be that Jubilee. This is further confirmed by St. James’ understanding of the economic implications of the gospel. The Epistle of James was the first book to be written of the New Testament. It is mostly about the evils of economic inequality. “Go to ye rich, weep and howl …” “Where do wars come from? …” “judges with evil minds”, etc.  I have already posted James 5:1-8 without comment on Facebook and had two priests accuse me of being a communist for it. I told them their argument obviously is with St. James, not me, since I had not commented. St. James had the mind of Christ and the natural progression from the jubilary concepts of Moses.

So this ministry is called The King’s Jubilee because we are trying to get resources from where they are to where they need to be. When we started in 1989, Montgomery and Bucks counties were two of the wealthiest counties in the country and home to the per capita wealthiest evangelical denomination in the world, the Mennonites. We were Mennonite at the time. This area was wealthy due to one reason: white flight from Philadelphia. They had sold their farmland for subdivision and made a killing. There was a whole generation that were builders and tradesmen who earned enough off of this development to send their children through college. The next generation came back as professional people. Some of the developers had even larger businesses off of the new population. The grocery stores expanded, etc. At the same time, they cut their support for ministry in the city and closed some of their mission outreach in the areas where they had originally started in Philadelphia.

Hundreds of churches have closed in Philadelphia. Crack wiped out a generation of mothers. Prison took a generation of fathers. Grandmas were left to raise babies. Little store front churches were overwhelmed with the tasks set before them. Meanwhile new churches were being built in the suburbs and people were building bigger McMansions and praising the Lord in comfortable, bigger, air conditioned barns , nicely forgetting the bad old days in Philadelphia. They wanted to help the poor people in their “own” neighborhoods. Problem is, they intentionally moved away from all those poor folks in Phila. and have zoning laws so they don’t have to see them on a regular basis and highways and no mass transit out here, so they can’t reach us. The suburban soup kitchen has to turn volunteers away. The suburban food bank is staffed by paid help, it is so well funded. Meanwhile, the city is starving.

So, we are The King’s Jubilee. We don’t just want to see food move from the suburbs to the city. We want to see money move to the people in need. We want to see people be personally involved in helping to rebuild neighborhoods for the current residents. We want to see land reform. We want to see people given a second chance. We want to see an end to convicts losing their right to vote. The war on drugs has been a race war by Nixon’s own taped admission. When people have paid their debt to society, the slate should be wiped clean. I learned that from my GOP dad around the dinner table. Imagine that! Stakeholders in a society make better citizens. We want to end homelessness. It is possible. Don’t you dare quote me: “The poor you have with you always.” Do you see the word homeless in there anywhere? I didn’t think so. Homelessness is a stupid shame and is a symptom of our greed and hardheartedness. It actually costs us more as a society to keep these people out on the street than if we would just give them some of the excess apartments that are sitting vacant, no strings attached. Four cities and one state have tried it and have found this to be the case, so I am going to say it again, louder. It actually costs us more as a society to keep these people out on the street than if we would just give them some of the excess apartments that are sitting vacant, no strings attached.

So another aspect of The King’s Jubilee’s ministry as was just demonstrated is the prophetic, both to Christians and to the powers that be, to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. It’s all wrapped up in the idea of sounding the trumpet or lifting the shout of liberation a la Isaiah 61.

I have been at this for more than 25 years. It has been a life lived in poverty. I have basically worked two jobs the whole time. Only for two brief periods did I have the luxury of pastors who understood and appreciated me and were glad to have me in their congregations. Most pastors feel threatened by me. I have been called by some a fool for Christ, by others, just a fool. They do not understand this ministry. They prefer to do “ministry” where they can market the church and proselytize. The first time Metropolitan PHILIP, of blessed memory, met me, he did not let me reverence him. Instead he reverenced me, and pronounced a loud blessing upon me and upon this ministry. I was just a new catechumen at the time. I do not say this to boast. I do not understand these things. I was ordained to the priesthood as an infant by the Episcopalian bishop who baptized me. No one knows why. I was ordained four other times, none of which I asked for, once in a joint Mennonite Church/ General Conference Mennonite service with a Catholic priest, a Lutheran minister and a Pentecostal bishop joining the MC & GC overseers & pastors in the laying on of hands. We have been investigated on numerous occasions. At least three times during the Rendell years, undercover police tried to run sting operations on us. We have been harassed under three Mayors; threatened with fines and arrest and finally banned. We sued in federal court and won a restraining order to block that. I have been held at gunpoint twice. I have witnessed one shooting and two knifings. What a long strange trip it has been.

What I do know is that serving the poor and homeless is what I am meant to do. Doing it excellently, with care and skill, with attention to nutritional needs, social needs, psychological needs, financial needs, and spiritual needs, brings me joy. There is no better life. Won’t you please join me?





True Story

ptsdI am told that I am too negative about the church and that I am too critical. Well, there is history. I have been bullied by so many pastors and priests, lied to and deceived by spiritual mentors from junior high on up, in fact, so much so, that I have PTSD as a result. A Lutheran pastor expelled me from confirmation class one month before confirmation (after 3 years)  for asking too many questions. A Mennonite pastor, who had been a close friend and mentor, threatened to kill me for forbidding him from bringing inflammatory literature into a prison. For all that, I remained extremely active in church. I was the first man ordained for prison ministry in the Mennonite Church. I was ordained on five occasions in six denominations. None of these ordinations were requested by me. I was willing to give all that up to continue ministry as a layman in the Orthodox Church, as I believed it to have a solid theology and tradition of ministry to the poor, was indeed the church, and would provide a safe base and covering for ministry. Unfortunately, I have not found that to be the case.

Instead, I have found the same jealousy from a pastor who feels threatened by my presence in his church, lies and attacks. But when a family is in need, who is called? The King’s Jubilee. A homeless family of three was referred by the church to Uncle John’s last week. We helped John keep his home and we help feed the men there and keep the phones on, etc. This family can stay there as long as they need to, to get their feet under them. Last spring, we rescued a parishioner who was becoming homeless after losing his job two years prior. He was selling his possessions in the church hall just to have enough gas money to get back and forth to church, until the priest and parish council decided it was too much clutter on the table against the wall and he had to stop. This was during Lent. They did not offer to help him move or help him find a place to live or offer him a spare room. We hired him to revamp the “Come and See” Icons website and Uncle John took him in. He is still there. He is working on a program there to help catch sex-offenders and he volunteers teaching English as a second language. He doesn’t make it to church much. No one from the church calls. The priest didn’t even think to call him until I told him to at Christmas time, and that maybe someone more friendly to the church than our family should do so.

There is no regular support from the church for The King’s Jubilee. There was no offering taken to help Uncle John help this family that is now living with him. John is in bankruptcy himself, while working a full-time job and running two businesses. A couple of years ago, the priest took credit for The King’s Jubilee as if it were a parish ministry, which it is not, in the archdiocesan magazine, without checking with us. This marked us as Antiochian, so then the Russians didn’t want to get involved with us. He only wants to support “ministries” that have good marketing potential in the local area, even though the bishop told him to make sure the church supports The King’s Jubilee regardless of our personal relationship.

But I have seen this pattern too many times before. The evangelicals going for the ‘easy fruit’ refer the hard cases to some other agency or drop them off at the county assistance office with a token grocery gift card. They pray and hope they don’t come back and become a burden on them and the community, so they can go out and find some potential tithers who will fit in better with the existing demographic of the ‘church family’. Spend money on advertising before spending it on ministry where you don’t get a mention in the local press. Sound the trumpets like the Pharisees! It is very much based on a successful sales model, but it is not Christian. It is not Orthodox Christian. Please do not mistake my honesty with malice. I bear no ill will. I want to see the church improved. I want to see the priest get psychiatric help.

We are very grateful for so many who responded generously to rescue us from foreclosure. What we don’t understand is this willingness to rescue us, coupled with what seems like a steadfast unwillingness to rescue the people we serve or to support the ministry in such a way so that we wouldn’t need rescuing. We know that several of you have made monthly commitments or make quite sizeable annual donations. We are not talking about you. It’s the rest of you. Many of you want to criticize me for one thing or another. I am an easy target. I speak my mind. I really have no good reason to not speak my mind. When I have done that, it has never been rewarded, only betrayed.

“The laborer is worthy of his hire.” If the church is going to use us to take care of its poor problem, then maybe it should publicly acknowledge that, or maybe there should be some real support instead of, “Be warm and well fed … .”

Please click the friendly yellow “Donate” button to use Paypal to make a recurring monthly donation. It’s painless. God bless you!

Remember the Poor

“Remember the Poor” is from an ancient, pre-Christian, Irish reel that was used in the mid-summer festival. The church preserved it and perpetuated its use, as it is in keeping with the Gospel and echoes many of the sayings of the early Church Fathers. This rendering was done by Katherine Rose Aho, a dear friend of ours (1962 – 2004). Memory Eternal.

rememberthepoorS

Remember the Poor

Remember the poor
when you lookout on fields you own,
on your plump cows grazing.

Remember the poor
when you look into your barn,
at the abundance of your harvest.

Remember the poor
when the wind howls and the rain falls,
as you sit warm and dry in your house.

Remember the poor
when you eat fine meat and drink fine ale,
at your fine carved table.

The cows have grass to eat,
the rabbits have burrows for shelter,
the birds have warm nests.

But the poor have no food
except what you feed them,
no shelter except your house
when you welcome them,
no warmth except your glowing fire.

 

One Love

Actually, apart from faith in God, Jesus left nothing of the existing Jewish religious code standing except justice and good-heartedness to one’s fellows (Mt. 7:12; 19:16-19; 22:34-40; 23:23; 54:34-36). All other obligations: sacrifices in the temple (Mk. 12:32-34), prayers at fixed hours (Lk 5:33-34), ritual washings (Mk. 7:3), distinctions between permitted or forbidden foods (Mk. 7:19) and consequently, discrimination between religious (observant) and non-religious people (non-observant), had no value for him. He affirmed that the so-called “sinners” were nearer God than those who were held to be unspotted (Lk. 18:9-14); that is, he declared invalid what was properly speaking religious practice. What God values is that we be good to others (Lk. 10:30-37) and the only thing that stains a person is evil intentions, and harming one’s neighbor (Mk. 7:20-23). Jesus asked much more: it is not enough to not kill, despising is already killing (Mt. 6:21-22). To avoid false oaths is insufficient, one has to be utterly sincere (Mt. 5:33-37). Going beyond loving those who love you, you have to love and do good to those who do not love you (Mt. 5:43-45). What Jesus wants is true and sincere good-heartedness towards everyone revealed in every detail of daily life (Mt. 7:12). Jesus cares for those who seek him. He accepts invitations from the rich as well, but without concealing his message (Lk. 11:37-52; 14:1-14).
- Juan Mateos, Vatican Theologian 1917-2003

Earlier this week I added this to my “about” page on Facebook and posted it as my status, without the scripture references. Almost immediately, I was attacked by an Orthodox priestmonk and seminary professor who took this as an attack on the Liturgy. Now the author was a Vatican theologian, so he was obviously not attacking the liturgy and I pointed this out. This man continued his attacks and what he said was most disturbing to me as it indicated that he valued the Liturgy above Love. What St. Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 13 is that the Liturgy is worthless without love. What Jesus teaches us in his vision of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25 is that the Liturgy is worthless without compassion for strangers, i.e., love for mankind. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)  A true liturgy should be all about love, and the atmosphere and the message attached to it, everything about it should equip the people to engage in lives of love for each other and for all mankind. It should never be about ethnic preservation or mere personal salvation. Then the medicine for our salvation can turn rancid and become a pickling agent to our souls.

A couple days later, I responded to yet another comment on a friend’s post, from yet another not so former evangelical who was busting on him for giving money to a beggar on the street. Why can’t we put this to rest, people? This is simple. Jesus told us to give to anyone who asks of us. Did He put qualifiers on it? Did He tell us to question their motives or morals? Was He stupid or unwise or unable to know our situation? Are we wiser than Jesus? OK, then. Just stop your stupid-enabling-psycho-babble-double-talk-which-is-just-an-excuse-for-you-to-feel-better-about-not-helping-because-that-is-what-your-greedy-self-wanted-to-do-anyway. Are you one of those hyper-Orthodox and Jesus’ word isn’t good enough for you; you need to hear it from “The Fathers”? OK, here goes:

“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person’s life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”

“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”

“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”

“Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness . . .
“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”

“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy.”

- St. John Chrysostom, Second Sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man


On Friday, Deacon Herman shared the documentary “Marley” with us, about the life and career of Bob Marley. There were several things that were striking about his life. While the movie did not cover why he converted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, I can understand why he did from the interviews that were included and how he lived his life. He was a serious almsgiver. Reporters would ask him if he was rich. He would ask them if they were talking about money. Then he would say: “What is that? I have people, lots of people, brothers and sisters! Friends. Love. That is the riches!” He was making millions at the time and he knew how to make a lot of money. He also knew how to give it away.

One of his bandmates said that wherever they would go, people would come up to him and ask him for money. He would ask them what their dream was, what their plan was and listen to it, then give them enough to make it happen. He was always doing this. He started out life poor, halfcaste and in the ghetto. He never forgot those roots. He was nurtured by a Rastafari master, but he got to see Haile Selassie I and he was honest enough to realize that the man did not think of himself as Jesus Christ reincarnate, but was, in fact, Ethiopian Orthodox. Orthodoxy has a rich theology of serving the poor, almsgiving, and the hope for the unity of all mankind. Bob was already more than halfway there. Very little catechesis was needed for such a soul as he, I’m sure. His whole life had been a catechesis of sorts.

What is my point? God is love. He calls us to be godly. That means first and foremost He calls us to love! Jesus said that all of the Commandments were fulfilled by love. Juan Mateus made a case from the Scripture that the Liturgy is worthless without love. St. John Chrysostom makes the case that we are not to judge those to whom we give alms, but merely obey Christ. Finally, we see the example of Bob Marley, who did not just give token, spare change alms, but intentionally earned as much as he could, so he would have more to give away. His paying audience was mainly upper, middle class, white, young people. He redistributed in the poorer neighborhoods. He gave in such a way as to make a difference in a person’s life, so they could make a new start.

So my point is this: One Love. It all flows from One Love as Bob Marley sang. That is God. If the Liturgy is just a way for us to preserve our ethnic heritage or language. If it is just a place to squabble over whose tones are better, or to showcase our excellent chorus, or which calendar is correct, or to interrupt it to scold someone for sitting, then you have missed the point. Love does not judge. Love is not stingy and does not keep a ledger sheet. Then there is the almsgiving example of Bob Marley. If you live a life centered in love, you don’t just give your leftovers or your scraps away. You live intentionally to use your gifts to help as many people as you can to the maximum benefit; or to rescue one exceptionally needy person, however God leads; but with intention, on a path of love. You can do this directly, if you have direct contact with needy people. If you do not, then give your money to agencies such as The King’s Jubilee. We will deliver your alms for you.