Pastor Scott Searl
President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers declared on Thursday that America’s long-running war on poverty ‘is largely over and a success,’ as it made the case for imposing new work requirements on Americans who benefit from federal safety net programs.” July 12, 2018 - New York Times.
This headline caught my attention for a number of reasons. First, I’m uncomfortable talking about our love and care of those in need as a “war.” It seems an out of place violent nomenclature for acts and programs of kindness. Second, I’m certain that poverty is not over and our response to it cannot be described as a complete success. There continues to be a growing need for affordable housing. There continues to be a growing need for our food shelves. There continues to be a need to care for those who are homeless. While some version of this narrative may be spoken in support of creating work requirements for programs aimed at helping those in need, it does not reflect the reality all around us. There will always be people who need help; sometimes it’s someone else, sometimes it’s us.
I am grateful, in this moment, to serve with a family of faith whose generosity and care for those in need continues to grow. I am grateful for the support of our refugee family. I am grateful for our support of Resource West, ICA - Food Shelf, MoveForward, My Health, Mental Health Connect and the BRCC all of whom are actively seeking the welfare of those in need in our community. Thanks be to God! And thanks be to each of you who share your abundance here, in our community and across the world. Thanks for all of the gifts you share!
The headline also caught the attention of the former director of ICA, Cathy Maes who currently is the executive director of Loaves and Fishes. In her recent letter to the editor at the Star Tribune she points out that in 2013 Loaves and Fishes served a total of 341,000 meals. In 2018 they are on pace to serve over 1 million meals. People are still hungry. People still need help. It is overwhelming to imagine walking through a grocery store that anyone could be hungry in our community... but they are. As a family of faith we are a participant and supporter of the Loaves and Fishes program here in Hopkins. Thanks to the many, many people who regularly share of their time and energy to serve nutritious meals to those in our community who need them. If you are looking for a place and time to share your abundance, look for the announcements about when and how you can serve at Loaves and Fishes. You will be glad you did!
Please, keep all our elected officials in your prayers. Please keep those in our community in need in your prayers and in your financial plans as you make choices about sharing your financial resources. Know that your gifts shared do make a difference. Know that your prayers make a difference, softening your heart and opening your life up to those in need.
Pastor Scott Searl
What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong...
And nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It's great to be able to stop
When you've planned a thing that's wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there's something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
We live in a noisy world. Mr. Rogers encouraged us to be still, quiet and reflective. We live in an angry world, where our daily trade is insults, lies and fabrications. Mr. Rogers sang to us of a different way, where reflection leads to self-discipline, which is the good-good feeling of control. We live in a hyper-competitive world, where compassion and kindness are called weak. We live in a world of hubris and heroes with super human powers who must be called on to save the day. Mr. Rogers reminded us that to be loved and to love one another was the most powerful thing anyone could do... and anyone could do it.
Personally, I would describe Mr. Rogers as one of the greatest theologians of our modern era. (He was an ordained Presbyterian Minister) Without using churchy or complicated language he translated the depth of God’s love in Jesus into everyday phrases that elementary age students could remember and understand. He walked into his TV kitchen and quietly fed his fish. When one day a fish died, with the dignity of a king’s funeral, he gently lifted the dead fish out. Speaking calmly and honestly about life and death, he wrapped the tiny fish in paper, and then buried it in his garden. The book of Genesis in its entire splendor came to life in the span of a few moments on TV. Care for the earth, care for creation, care for all life, and humanity as the steward of God’s garden.
In the Gospels the people who show Jesus the most love are those who have experienced pain, suffering, teasing, or been somehow cut off from the mainstream of life. Those with illness, mental torment, addiction, or social “diseases” that have rendered them unworthy by many are those who love Jesus with the deepest fervor. Mr. Roger’s said of those folks, “When a child comes up to me and gives me a hug, I see it is not the (long pause looking for the right word) fancy people of the world who seem to nourish my soul... and I want to learn how to be the best receiver that I can ever be, because I think graceful receiving is one of the greatest gifts we can give anybody.” Instead of believing we are “self-made” Mr. Rogers knew we are “other- made” recipients of love from God and other fellow human beings. Humility, vulnerability, being open to love and help is one of the most difficult things to trust and live. No wonder he ended every episode with “you are special, there is no one in the world like you.” I love you and so does God, just the way you are.
If you haven’t seen the recent movie, documentary about Mr. Rogers, you should go as soon as possible. I cried throughout most of the movie. Maybe there was a bit of childhood nostalgia, but mostly I cried because the world we inhabit does not reflect the love one experiences listening to Mr. Rogers. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect; he’d likely be the first to admit that. But he was certainly filled with a Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I am in awe of his ability to honestly express the depth of human experience and a depth of theology in words that are simple, clear and filled with hope. Next time you pull up your web browser, go watch an episode. You will feel revived, refreshed, loved and hopeful.
Hearing daily the loud voices of our culture and news, one thing that struck me as I watched the movie and revisited some Mr. Rogers episodes, is that living a life of love, compassion, forgiveness, gentleness and kindness is much more difficult than winning, accumulating wealth or being perceived as powerful. In this way Mr. Rogers was at the same time one of the most childlike and courageous people that I’ve ever seen.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:13