This evening we drove past a church with lights yet on.  They’re getting ready for Easter Sunday.   Half joking, I told Gail that it stirred up resentment for it caused me to recall an Easter years ago in Detroit.

We received a phone call from a nearby Salvation Army corps.  It had sponsored an Easter basket drive to provide baskets of candy and small gifts for children.  The response was so successful that they now had far more baskets than they needed.  Would we be interested in having the extra?  Of course we were. 

It meant a trip to load and then bring them into our building on Dundee St.  In the back door and down steps.  Line them up and then Gail carefully planned who would receive which basket.  Girls, boys, ages.  Gail knew each young person and tried to match up what she knew of their interests with what was in a basket.  Imprecise science.  Actually an art.  She’s good at it, she cares.

Easter Sunday at the corps.  The young people were surprised and delighted.  The baskets were more than the modest treats we had prepared.  We were not aware of disappointment or ingratitude.  Everyone seemed happy.  

We were glad that our friends had thought to share with us.  During six years in Detroit we often were remembered, contacted, and shared with.  Dearborn Heights, Royal Oak, Farmington Hills, Warren, Mt Clemens and others, including DHQ.  And I won’t start to name officers, staff, soldiers whose thoughtfulness and generosity touched us.  The material was always appreciated.  The inspiration it gave was priceless.

So, why the resentment?

Poverty in America, some say, doesn’t compare with poverty in other places around the world.  The implication:  be content with what you have.  Oh, yes.  It is scriptural.*

But poverty in America and inner city poverty dull these words.  Why?  Because around you seeing what others have, you can’t help but look at what you have, and then feel something disturbing inside.

In harder and more desperate places you may not be surrounded by material affluence.  Ignorance is bliss.  But a worm begins to gnaw at a person when they can see what others have.  This is a challenge in our material America.

I had no personal complaints; I had food, a place to live.  But as ministers of Christ, when we eventually come to care for and love those to whom we have been sent, we become deeply disturbed when all things considered it’s not fair.  schools?  safety on the street?  access to health care?  can a person buy even a fresh apple or milk without having to travel to the suburbs?  access to a community with excess wealth to generously share with the Salvation Army?

Resentment?  I felt it, a residue yet remains.  I can’t see how I’ll ever get over it.  I confess.

“…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.”*

There are dangers faced by both those who have little and those who have more than enough.

It’s one thing to pray to God to keep us safe from the evil of materialism.  But why should God do anything about that prayer if we haven’t done a thing?  Ought we presume on God to do that we are capable of doing and should have already done?  Faith without works is dead.

It may mean sharing from the abundance I have received.  It may mean living an ethical life regardless of how easy it would be to steal.  Actually, the greater problem, if we can cite the Old Testament, is with unjust gain and sniffing at the Lord’s prophets as they called a nation to repent, to care for those in distress.  Is this a current issue during these days of a wobbly American economy?

Tomorrow morning I will rise and there will be no young children for me to watch as they search for their Easter baskets.  But somewhere, it will be happening. 

*Hebrews 13:5; Proverbs 30:8b-9

Easter morning

Thank you, Paul, Evie, Steve Karen, and others for your words via Facebook, etc.

Karen, you mention how we ‘may be the answer to prayer’ and of God’s people being moved by our Lord’s resurrection power. 

Two thoughts –

I touted the book Becoming the Answer To Our Prayers (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove) on Xav Montenegro’s Where Is God? blog on this subject where Xav makes right-on observations; I recommend the Claiborne/Hartgrove book.

I am in the process of re-reading Bonhoeffer’s Letters.  Some of the possibilities he suggests are fascinating such as “the difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and a mythological hope is that the Christian hope sends a man back to his life on earth in a wholly new way which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament.” (June 27, 1944)

In his final year of prison Bonhoeffer wrote much on how Christ in the modern era has been increasingly relegated to the margins of experience and thought.  This sort of Christ becomes the answer to only our unanswerable questions, needs, etc, what is referred to as God of the gaps, deus ex machina.  The problem is as answers have been discovered via modern inquiry (Bonhoeffer guesses this process began in the 13th century), God is thus pushed back further away from human existence:  we don’t need God, the world has ‘come of age’.  At least on this basis.

Bonhoeffer tantalizes with this:  “how can we reclaim for Christ a world which has come of age?”   His answer is to minister Christ right in the center of life.  And I am beginning to suspect that this may mean among many other things for Christ’s men and women to become the answer to the prayers of the world, that “it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to believe.”  (July 21, 1944)