Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leap Year Devo

Earlier this week my husband pointed out that there's no entry for February 29 in The One Year Daily Grind. My apologies, all. Leap Year never occured to me as I was writing. Which puts you, the reader, in the trippy position of living a day without a devo, living a day that only shows up now and then in a given century, like the village of Brigadoon. (I wonder what it's like to have been born on Feb. 29th?) Of course, I'm sure there's plenty of other spiritual caffeine out there for you to read in the meantime, but in case you can't kick the Daily Grind habit, here's a Leap Year devo just for you.

The Poor Jesus Talked About
Luke 6:17-26

So I was skimming through a Christian magazine recently when an advertisement for a mission agency (to remain nameless) caught my attention. The picture shows a couple of brown kids playing in a slum, with the accompanying tagline: "They are the poor Jesus talked about. You are the church Jesus talked about." And then in smaller print, "The poorest of the poor probably don't live near your church..." Etc.

No big deal, right? It's the usual missionary appeal, one which would've fired me up back in my undergraduate days. We were to follow God's call and go out and change the world. No ordinary jobs for us. No mediocrity. We were cut out for missions, ministry, saving the lost. And if we couldn't do that right away--say, if our college loans were too high--we could always get a good job and support missions with our tithe. In fact, that was just as much a ministry as feeding the hungry ourselves, right?

Thirteen years later, on the downwardly-mobile track of communal living, in the ghetto of an American city, my perspective has shifted. First, on nearly every block of my neighborhood stands a church--generally a cinderblock building with no paid staff, but a church nonetheless. So apparently "poor" does not equal "unsaved" (nor does "brown" equal unsaved, but that's another topic for another devo). And second, in reading Luke's version of the Beatitudes--the version that's not often quoted in churches--we find this awkward line, "But woe to you who are rich" (v. 24). And I think he means it. Woe, that is. Whoa. So apparently "rich" does not equal "saved." And third, I'm not here to save anyone. That job, as one of my favorite professors says, has already been taken. My role is not to "be Christ" in this place. Jesus is already here, in the "least of these" (Matthew 25:40). My purpose is to stick around long enough to meet him.

So, let's go back to the advertisement.

What if Jesus is already in the picture with the two brown children playing in the slum?

What if they are the church Jesus talked about?

And if they are still the poor Jesus talked about--and if they don't live anywhere near our churches--doesn't that make us the...