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Daily Encouragement - July 17

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[h] in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

— James 1:22-27

For he delivers the needy when they call,

    the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy,

    and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life;

    and precious is their blood in his sight.

— Psalm 72:12-14

NT Wright is a theologian that has had a great influence in my life. I usually tell folks that if he published his grocery list, I would likely buy and read it. I have a whole shelf of his books in my library. Recently, he has written a book entitled God and the Pandemic. In that book he suggests that the question of the moment is less “is this a punishment from God” than it is “how should we respond.” He goes on to look back to the earliest church and the arrival of a famine in the ancient world. Wright suggests that in that moment the Church asked 3 questions:

-who is going to be at special risk?

-what do we do to help?

-who should we send to them?

I firmly believe that the most important place for the people of faith is at the side of those at special risk, whatever that may mean. Everything in scripture screams for the people of faith to stand with the victims of this world.

I am reminded of the words of Elie Wiesel, survivor of the Holocaust and author of so many wonderful books. Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reflecting on the experience of the Holocaust, Wiesel said:

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the center of the universe. . .  Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere."

As we continue through these challenging days, the question for us needs to be, who are the victims? Who needs us to be a voice? Who can we help and how?

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,

show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.

Kneels at the feel of his friends,

Silently washes their feet,

Master who acts as a slave to them.

Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,

show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.

Loving puts us on our knees,

serving as though we are slaves,

This is the way we should live with you.

God of the silent tears, God of the painful sobs, empower us to cry with those who cry, to stand with those who cannot, and to offer strength to all who are weak. May we be your people today and everyday. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Pastor Tom Greener

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