[/caption]If we are called to love others, we are called to love the needy among us. According to Scott McKnight “this cycle of love begins with those closest to us, and ripples into our community of faith and then into anyone we might meet who is in need.” (40 Days Living The Jesus Creed, p. 70) Jesus reminds us time and time again that caring for the poor and needy is one of the fundamental actions of discipleship. According to Jesus, if we serve the neediest among us we are serving him.Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador said it like this:
There is a way to know if God is near us or far away: everyone who is concerned about the hungry, about the naked, about the poor, about the disappeared, about the tortured, about the prisoner, about all the flesh that is suffering, will find God near. “Call to the Lord and he will hear you.” Religion is not praying a great deal. Religion involves this guarantee of having my God near because I do good to my brothers and sisters. The proof of my prayer is not to say a great many words, the proof of my plea is easy to see: how do I act toward the poor? Because God is there.(from Through the Year with Oscar Romero: Daily Meditations, p.33)
As a church we are having constant conversations about our mission: What is it? Who's in our mission field? How do our ministries become outward in expression instead of inward? How do we prepare and deploy disciples to this fundamental expression of love?I believe that in his reflection for today, Scott McKnight gives us a good starting point at answering the missional questions. He calls disciples of Jesus to have the ears, eyes, and hands of Jesus. This is a call to full engagement with the neediest among us. Engaging in this way takes more than a check, more than a donation, more than an announcement in the bulletin. It demands our being attentive so that we can hear of the needs, see them in our community, and then get to work together in bringing God's kingdom to the places we live, work, and play.In a landscape of so many needs we can be overwhelmed. We hear of the devastation in Japan, civil war in Lybia, and continued uncertainty in Egypt and we become paralyzed, not knowing where to begin.I believe that we begin with the needy around us: What do our ears hear where we work, live, and play? What are the conversations? Who is directly or indirectly asking for help?What do we see as we drive home? Who are the ones that could easily be forgotten? What places have become, as Shane Claiborne tells us, “abandoned places of empire?”The answer to these questions becomes the blue print for our work together as God's people. We must get our hands dirty, we must get beyond ourselves, we must leave the comfortable pews, stained glass windows, and air conditioned classrooms to be about the work of healing, reconciling, and transforming that God's Spirit has called us to and empowered us to be about in the world.Always remembering that in the least, neediest, and forgotten, God is . . ._________________________________This post originally appeared at the 40 Days Together blog, where clergy from the Louisiana Annual Conference share Lenten Reflections on Scott McKnight’s book 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed.