Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Christian Charity Is Contagious!

Dear Friends,

This photograph is not a joke or a Facebook meme. I don’t know why the priest did this but perhaps it was because the rules of his Church forbid the celebration of Mass by the priest alone and he was stretching out the rules a bit. That requirement is based on the belief that Mass is not a private devotion, but the public worship of the Church. I had to smile when I enlarged the photo to see that extra chairs had been set up in the back of this small church to accommodate the large “overflow” crowd! But a gathering of color photographs is pushing the definition of “church.” When nearly every church in our Nation is closed, pastors and their congregations are struggling to redefine what it means to be the true church of Jesus Christ.

If you read last week’s AMEN Corner you know that church is not a building. The Greek word Ekklesia is the one that’s translated as “church” in our Bibles. This Greek word literally means the “summoned ones” – the called out ones – the community of believers. The biblical definition of church is you and me. Last week I wrote about a church in my neighborhood that’s a community of believers filled with hope and joy. They are also filled with Christian charity. What does that look like? 

When you are diligently practicing the “stay at home” guidelines, that’s a great time to clean your house! But what happens when your vacuum cleaner breaks and the State has inconveniently determined that vacuum cleaner repair shops are not an essential business? Shelley brought her vacuum cleaner to an older, retired Christian gentleman who she had met through her church. He purchased the necessary part on Amazon, repaired the vacuum and thoroughly cleaned it inside and out. Jim and Debby delivered some cat food to Sandy and Shelley. That same day, Sandy took some onions to Erin. Erin saw on social media that an older couple in her neighborhood were completely out of toilet paper and she immediately drove to their home to drop off a package. This community of believers is reaching out to one another, calling each other, shopping for one another and caring for each other. When Jesus said to “love your neighbor,” this is what it looks like. We are reading and seeing in the news that people are calling it “extraordinary” now that neighbors are actually helping each other. In our own community of believers, it’s not extraordinary, it’s just ordinary. It’s Christian charity. It’s just what Jesus would do.

As the word “church” evolved to mean something different than its biblical definition, so has the word “charity.” We define charity to mean the provision of financial help to the poor or something given to the needy. But in our Bible, wherever we find the English word “Charity,” it’s translated from the Greek word “Agape” meaning love. A familiar verse is 1 Corinthians 13:13. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” In this beloved verse, about half of our translations use the word “love” and the rest use the word “charity.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 KJV Our English word charity comes from the Latin “caritas” which is a term referring specifically to Christian love for one another. Thayer’s Greek Definitions defines charity as “brotherly love, affection, good will, benevolence.” That’s what I saw last Sunday when my Christian neighbors across the street picked the lemons off their tree and hung them in plastic bags from their fence as an offering to those passing by on their Sunday walks. The wonderful thing about Christian charity is that it’s contagious. As we do for others, it reminds them, encourages them and inspires them to help others in a spirit of Christian brotherly love and good will.

In last week’s AMEN Corner, I wrote about the necessity of continuing to financially support our local churches and a few days ago read about a New York ELCA (Lutheran) bishop who said that some of the 190 churches in his synod were unlikely to survive because of a two-pronged financial hit. Closing their churches meant no Sunday offerings, but they were also losing income from tenants (other churches and preschools) who rent their properties and can no longer afford to pay their rent because they are also closed. Many small churches in our own San Fernando Valley are struggling financially and facing the same circumstances. Now is not the time to give less; if you can afford it, it’s the time to give more.

And on a lighter note, a post from the Babylon Bee, reports that: “The CDC now recommends that everyone stay home and avoid going out as much as possible. Despite this, reports are that God is breaking quarantine and going absolutely everywhere. Hospitals, nursing homes, prisons - wherever He is needed, God is going. He is reportedly visiting everyone and checking on everyone in this time of need and not using any amount of social distancing. God is said to be following the absolute best practices, though, and is at no risk of making people sick, but only making people better.” AMEN?


* Note that State of California guidelines permit leaving one's home to help others in need. The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health Order dated March 21st. states that Essential Activities that permit leaving one's home include 10c: "obtaining grocery items for one's household or for delivery to others" and 10e "providing care for minors, the elderly, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons."

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