It is precisely when we see and experience poverty — whether far away, close by, or in our hearts — that we need to become the Church; that is, hold hands as brothers and sisters, confess our own brokenness and need, forgive one another, heal one another’s wounds, and gather around the table of Jesus for the breaking of the bread. Thus, as the poor we recognize Jesus, who became poor for us.
— Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen
For those of us in the suburbs, we have little exposure to suffering near or far. We see refugees on the nightly news. We read about homelessness. Human trafficking appalls us and we feel badly for those who don’t have enough food. We pray for these others, but are there others? Aren’t we all in this together, brothers and sisters, some more wounded than others but all desperately in need of hope and healing?
There are no others.
There is only us.
The reality is that we all experience poverty in some way or in some form. Some are crushed by economic inequality and unjust systems; others are crippled by shame and loneliness. All of us long to be accepted and loved unconditionally.
During the Lenten season, we focus on our frailty, our humanity, our need for hope and healing and for a Savior. From dust we came. To dust we will return. Like Job we confess: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) We embrace our poverty as a confession that without God’s riches we are desperately lost.
Isaiah 44 helps us understand these things:
44 “But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2 This is what the Lord says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun,[a] whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
and will take the name Israel.
God is not an old man sitting on a throne in heaven looking down in boredom. God is relational and active. In the previous and following chapters, God calls us by name. In Isaiah 41:13 God takes us by our hand. Yahweh is our father who calls us by our names. Isaiah 46:4 states:
Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Our creator is relational. Our redeemer is personal. Our defender cares.
Though we are crushed God restores.
We live in a barren land but God refreshes.
Our communities are broken but God heals.
The trafficker takes our children but God redeems.
The lonely find a family.
The sinner finds forgiveness.
The oppressed find justice.
Those who despair find hope.
Those who grieve find joy.
Ephesians 3:14-21 reinforces these things. We are part of a family and God blesses the generations. Together we center on Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Not just once but THREE TIMES we have power together with all the saints to do more than we can ask or imagine.
The best way to conclude this reflection is worship:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
— 2 Corinthians 3-4
Question: How are you cultivating humility and serving others through your weakness, need, and poverty?