YEsterday a lot of trainee Baptist ministers came to visit the Upper Room from a residential week where they were focusing on pioneering and new forms of church. We talked about what the scripture says about being God’s people and how what we know we are doing represents God and his priorities, what are the marks of the church, and leading in weakness rather than in strength. Below are the notes I’d prepared for them:
Mission and Service of the needs of people who are poor and vulnerable as worship & inherent to the identity of the Church and the coming of the Kingdom
What is the Church? What is it for / what does it do? How do you know that something is a part of the church or not?
http://www.openbible.info/topics/serving_the_poor Bible Society Poverty & Justice Bible: https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/products/9780564094530/
The whole of scripture points to people who are vulnerable, poor, marginalised being taken care of / blessed as the way in which God’s people are supposed to live. This represents God’s nature, to show justice, and is a continual thread throughout the whole of scripture, continuing in the life of Christ.
- Creation – In the OT, the dignity of the created human in Genesis as made in God’s image is the backdrop of all care for people by the church – in caring for people we show reverence for God, in whose image they are made. The Incarnation of Christ into a human form completes this circle and brings further dignity to the human.
- Covenant – The covenant God made with Israel required them to care for the poor/widow/stranger. This set Israel apart from the nations around and showed the nature of their God as one who values human life, made in his image – as opposed to the gods of the Ancient Near East and their creation stories – the Enuma Elish for example.) Deuteronomy 15:7-11
- Proverbs and Psalms: Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him.
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Psalm 82:3-4 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
- Prophets and Minor Prophets: Isaiah 58: 10 If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
Isaiah 25:4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall
Micah 4:6 In that day says the Lord I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; the lame I will make a remnant and those who were cast off, a strong nation.
Micah 5:1 But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming is from old, from ancient days.
Amos 5:11 Because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes from him…vs21 I hate I despise your religious feasts, I take no delight in your solemn assemblies – even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them…Take away from me the noise of your songs, to the melodies of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like many waters and righteousness like a never failing stream.
- New Testament: the important protagonists and their messages
The forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist: Luke 3:10 And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”
- The Incarnation & Gospel
The Birth of Christ – Mary, the mother of Christ, has one of the most powerful speeches in the whole of scripture, in the Magnificat or Mary’s song where she prophetically speaks out what God will do through his Son – feed the hungry and send the rich away empty!
The manner of Christ’s birth and incarnation speak volumes to us about the message of his life, of being poured out and servant hearted and not kingly. He could have been born anywhere but the saviour of the world was born in a stable with shepherds, the losers of the ancient world, and animals, to an unmarried mother, and then was taken into exile.
The life of Christ also shows us the values of God and how Christ continued on the covenant God had made with Israel. He spent his time with sinners, tax collectors, people of ill repute, fed those who were hungry, healed by touch those who were ceremonially unclean, spent time with those who were demon possessed. As Colossians tells us the “fullness of the Deity was pleased to dwell in him” Colossians 2:9 so we understand that he was fully God and in accord with God – there was no hiatus between the old law of Torah and the new commandment to love one another in John 13:34, there was continuity and he was showing us what the life of discipleship looks like, the model for our lives to be built on.
- Christ’s teaching: eschatology
Jesus taught clearly that care for the poor and those who were excluded were the marks of the Kingdom – the teaching in Matthew 25 on the sheep and the goats makes it clear that when we care for the physical needs of others, we are engaged in an act of worship and it is as if we were caring for Christ himself. Those that usually find themselves last being brought to the front of the queue – noticed and cared for – this is the Kingdom breaking through. The banqueting stories – God is inviting those who wouldn’t normally be offered a place.
The Early Church After the resurrection, the epistles of the early church clearly understood and continued this teaching of Jesus: James 2:14-26: faith without works is dead/give the things which are needed for the body.
I John 3:17 how can you be considered someone who loves God if you do not care for another person in need?
I John 4: 20-21 Loving other people is the mark or proof of our love for God
Theology: Key Authors / Texts/ Ideas
- Missio Dei – God’s nature is to outreach and bless, He is at work in the world already. We are catching up and joining in, not setting the agenda!
- Inculturation – listen and learn before communication in ways that can be understood in each local context
- Liberation theology – Gutierrez http://liberationtheology.org/people-organizations/gustavo-gutierrez/ The Gospel shows a “preferential option” for the poor
- Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement
- Henri Nouwen
- Jean Vanier
- Mother Teresa
- Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution
- A Gittins, Ministry at the Margins
- Heuertz &Pohl, Friendship at the Margins
- David Dark, Everyday Apocalypse
- Clemens Sedmak, Doing Local Theology
- Jonny Baker & Cathy Ross, The Pioneer Gift
- Gustav Martelet, the Risen Christ and the Eucharistic World
The Upper Room journey:
- 4 ordinary women read their Bibles and prayed for their town & God spoke to us
- We were obedient
- It was hard & costly
- The Holy Spirit drew people to Christ here
- We steward a space and God meets people here; we serve the needs of the local community; we are weak and small
- Things bubble up from the ground and we respond – we are not in control!
- How do people come to faith today who have never heard? Slowly! And with one or two people – open up your life, invite them into it, journey with them, let them see that the Lord is good – no hard sell, no demands, just openness and welcome. Avg 4 years.
- Small local partnerships develop with agencies that work with those in need: for a local housing association we supply starter boxes for those moving in off the streets; we supply items for young people in a hostel going for job interviews etc; we set up the foodbank in Cirencester. We see need and respond to it in the name of Christ.
- We see potential in people and make opportunities for belonging and growing