“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd sepa-rates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? 'And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”(Matthew 25:32-40 NRS)
Two times in the month of July I got to experience this sort of ministry. The first was at the Talbot Inter-faith Shelter. I learned that a couple of folks from St. Paul’s have been working for this ministry to those in the community who have fallen on hard times. It is a great way to minister to people who need to feel the love of Christ through work that provides for their general welfare and mental, emotional and spiritual care.
Unfortunately, when most folks hear “homeless” they think this means drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals or just lazy people. In the last few decades this is not always the case. Unemployment and salaries that do not keep up with mounting costs for basic living expenses contribute to homelessness.
Back in Western New York when the automotive industry was experiencing a financial crisis, one plant cut the employee’s salaries by 15% in order to keep their doors open. The problem? The banks expected a full mort-gage payment not one 15% less, neither did the utility companies or the tax collector. Many people slowly sunk into foreclosure, some did eventually experience homelessness and those who could afford to moved south to the Tennessee automotive plants where the cost of living was much lower. Homelessness does not discriminate.
The other place I visited was the Brookletts Senior Center in Easton. There I heard about all the programs they offer to those 60 and older in the community but also about Meals-On-Wheels and their lunch program. Both of these programs are really ministries to the community and both programs help provide food for those over 60 either at the center or at home. Both programs need to be subsidized because not all seniors can afford the meals/Meals-on-Wheels even though it is modest sum. Many volunteers help prepare meals both for delivery and the in house dining room. Note that “volunteers”.
Jesus is evaluating (remember the “plumb line” back in July) in this passage how we have taken care of “the least, the last and the lost of society”, the very people Jesus ministered to when he walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. This call to ministry for the followers of Jesus has not changed and never will. It is up to all of us to be aware of the needs in the community and to minister to those needs.
If you need more information about volunteering for either of these ministries see Mike Hiner for the Tal-bot Interfaith Shelter or pastor for the Senior Center. “As you did it to the least of these you did it to me.” Remem-ber we are ministering to the Christ in every person no matter who they are or what they need.