Bridges Out of Poverty

Acts 4:43-47

Bridges Out of Poverty

May 27, 2018      Maple Grove UMC

 

          Several miracles took place on the day of Pentecost. For example, the disciples told about Jesus in all the languages of the world, even languages they didn’t know. That’s miraculous. The church grew from about 120 people to more than 3000 in one day. That’s a miracle. But the biggest miracle of all is the one we read about today—that those early believers shared so generously that there was not a needy person among them. Now that’s a miracle!

         

          Acts 4 tells about a community that ended poverty, and it did so in two ways. Here’s the first: someone once asked the Dalai Lama what the answer to world hunger is. He responded with one word: “Sharing.”1 It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just share. What set those Acts 4 Christians apart from others who talk about sharing is that they actually did it. They sold property and shared the proceeds; they held their resources in common, so that no one took more than they needed and no one got less than they needed. They shared

          John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote, “Do you not know that [all money above what buys necessities for your families] God entrusted to you to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless . . .? How can you, how dare you,” Wesley asked, “defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”2

               You might think this kind of sharing wouldn’t be enough, that even generous sharing couldn’t possibly meet the needs of our own neighbors, let alone the world. But about fifteen years ago researchers named John and Sylvia Ronsvalle estimated that back then it would take $70-$80 billion a year to meet basic human needs worldwide through projects such as clean water, prenatal and maternal care, and so forth. That’s a lot. But if every church member in the US alone would increase their giving to 10% of their income, it would generate enough to do all of that.3

               Sharing really is one part of ending poverty. The only problem is that we simply don’t do it.

 

 

          But as government programs have shown, sharing by itself does not end poverty. The other thing it takes is relationships. In the Acts 4 church, they didn’t just mail checks to the needy, they worshiped with needy people, prayed with needy people, lived among the needy and knew them personally.

          On Wednesday and Thursday, June 6-7, Maple Grove is offering a workshop called Bridges Out of Poverty.   Bridges Out of Poverty focuses on this relationship aspect of poverty. The workshop will help us better understand what poverty is, what it’s like to live in poverty, by identifying some of the hidden assumptions and values that may be different for poor people, middle-class people and wealthy people. It will help us form deeper, more equal relationships with people who live in poverty. I hope you will make arrangements to be here; it will be life-changing.

          Here again, is what John Wesley taught 250 years ago: “One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is that . . . one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know; they keep out of the way of knowing it—and then plead their voluntary ignorance as an excuse for their hardness of heart.”4

 

          Sharing and relationships with people in poverty—that’s what Acts 4 is all about. Now to prepare you for Bridges Out of Poverty, Cathy Davis and I want to share with you some words and images from Shane Claiborne.

 

 

1 Quoted in The Christian Century (July 12, 2005), 7.

2 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/672107-do-you-not-know-that-god-entrusted-you-with-that. Accessed 5/28/18.

3 The Christian Century (September 7, 2004), 7.

4 Quoted in Henry H. Knight III, The Presence of God in the Christian Life: John Wesley and the Means of Grace (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1992), 112.

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