It is likely that, if you have been in worship recently, you will have heard readings from Luke’s gospel (because it is the lectionary gospel for this year – the gospel from which our set weekly readings tend to come.) One of the first things we tend to say about this gospel is that, of the four, it seems to be the one which expresses most concern for the poor, the marginalized and the outcast. So, for example, you may have heard Luke report Jesus’ use of a quotation from Isaiah in his home synagogue which begins, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has sent me to the poor’. This sets the tone for the rest of Luke’s account of Jesus’ ministry.
Whilst Luke does not lose sight, and neither should we, of the fact that that this good news is rooted in the salvation God brings to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, nonetheless Luke reminds us that we cannot ‘spiritualize’ the gospel message without also taking seriously the challenge of actual, this-world poverty.
No doubt like many of my colleague ministers, I have recently found myself in the position of being face to face with individuals, otherwise unknown to me, who have asked me for help because of their own material poverty. In one instance, a young couple came to me with the simple request, ‘We’re hungry. Can you feed us?’ In another case, a man came to me with the equally basic request, ‘I’m thirsty. Can you give me a drink?’ It’s the kind of issue we all face from time to time, and over my ministry I have had to deal with it on countless occasions. We have to make the decision first of all whether to allow someone to tell us their story, then whether to believe it, then how we should respond (whether or not we believe their story).
My response can vary from circumstance to circumstance (though I NEVER give money, and I ALWAYS try to treat the person concerned as a human being). I have been accused in the past of being naïve (when I have responded) and ‘unchristian’ (when I have not). The issues are complex for this, and indeed for the ways we respond to all the layers of poverty we come across in our world, be that in the work of Food Banks, or in our support for charities which work with the poor and marginalized around the world.
However, as we continue to read Luke in many of our churches through this coming season of Lent, I hope we hear loud and clear that this is not an issue we can ignore. If we say we have heard the call of the Gospel but have not heard the call to feed the hungry and care for the outcast, then we have not been listening properly.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Jamie Kissack
image courtesy of www.pexels.com