Mother Elisabeth Sinclair
Sep 9, 2021
If a Brother or Sister Is Naked…
Mother Susan told a beautiful story in her sermon last week about a group of churches who worked together to sponsor Cambodian refugees arriving in the United States in the 1970’s ...
Mother Susan told a beautiful story in her sermon last week about a group of churches who worked together to sponsor Cambodian refugees arriving in the United States in the 1970’s with nothing but a piece of paper to their name. The churches exercised their faith muscles by providing housing, clothes, English language instruction, job advocacy, etc. Over time, the Cambodian community prospered, so that there are now a Buddhist temple and Cambodian restaurants and grocery stores in the city. Many of the original refugees’ children have become doctors, professors, lawyers, etc. The churches’ commitment to coordinated, risk-taking faith in action changed their own experience of God, their city’s identity, and generations of Cambodian immigrants’ lives.
Mother Susan noted some of the ways Christ Church has historically exercised her faith muscles, especially by caring for orphaned children with disabilities and children with cancer. Whoever wrote the letter attributed to the apostle James in our New Testament reflected Jesus’ priorities of caring for (and healing and restoring) the poor, the disinherited, the unseen, the unvalued. In nearly every human epoch, widows and orphans have fallen in these categories, as have the imprisoned and those with mental illness or addiction. What other groups of people come to mind for you?
For me, the most captivating and convicting verses from James’ letter are these: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
The reality, though, is that the needs of our world could quickly capsize us if we desperately tried to breathe life into our faith by doing everything ourselves. Proactive, curious, open-hearted discernment with the Holy Spirit—through prayer, fasting, conversation, and risk-taking—can be a wonderful tool for us as we move forward together and decide which actions to take individually, which to take corporately as Christ Church, and which will need help from other faith communities. Are you willing to share your ideas with your vestry and me?