“Seeing and Responding to Christ”
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ (Matthew 25)
Over my years in ministry, I have served two churches that were located within the city limits of the community where I lived. When you work in the city, and especially if you are a church, you expect to see, meet, and respond to many people in need of some help to get back on their feet. I have met a large number who needed either food or financial assistance to help them make it through the week or month. And of course, I have met some people who said they needed assistance, but were really trying to take advantage of the system and situation by appealing to my Christian faith and my role as a pastor. It is not always easy to tell the difference! However, my philosophy has always been a more liberal one. I always try to assess the reality of the need, and the sincerity of the individual, but I have chosen to make it a practice to err of the side of generosity. Perhaps that is the pastor in me, but when I find myself in a position to provide assistance, I remember the verse of scripture with which I started this article. When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you. In hindsight, I am certain I have on occasion been fooled and been taken advantage of, but I can live with that better than I can live with thinking that I, in some way, have not provided assistance to someone truly in need. It’s a wonderful thing when we are able to help those less fortunate.
I hope you are touched by the ways you are ministering to others and I want you to know that you are responding to the challenge Christ puts in front of us to see him in the faces and needs of the people we encounter. Perhaps we ought not take pride in those numbers, but I am proud of you. Your generosity does not go unnoticed.
With that said, I want to share some numbers from 2018 where you, through our congregation, helped those who were in need. Some basic numbers first. The 2018 budget included a Social Ministry amount of $20,000. This money is to be spent on supporting local charities and agencies that assist individuals, as well as assisting on a more regional and global basis. Examples of this type of support include: the Barrier Islands Medical Clinic, Charleston Area Senior Citizens Center, ELCA Disaster Relief Fund, Lutheran Hospice, NovusWay, Star Gospel Mission, Hope Lodge, Coastal Crisis Ministries, Fisher House, Homeworks of America, TriCounty Family Ministries and quite a few others. In addition to that, we contribute to sponsoring an ELCA missionary and to the Franke @ Seaside Innkeepers Society. While these organizations are well aware of the contributions we make, many of the individuals being assisted have no idea that St. John’s is helping to make that ministry possible. These are some of the ways we reach out to others in the name of our Lord Jesus.
And your ministry goes far beyond what is in our annual budget. Not only do many of you participate in supporting social ministry causes and organizations, but you participate through your contributions of so many things that St. John’s then distributes as a part of our ministry. Examples of those contributions include: Memminger School, Charleston Port and Seafarers Society Christmas @ Sea boxes that reach sailors from all over the world, East Cooper Community Outreach, Souper Bowl Sunday contributions, Ladies Sewing Society scholarships to seminarians, ELCA World Hunger Appeal, and quarterly food gifts as well as socks and undies. And there are others we support too. When you add up the financial value of these contributions, it totals over $54,000 dollars of support to those who were hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and needed to be ministered to in some way. That is over 10% of our church’s total budget. Wow! Thank you.
I hope and pray that this new year brings you blessings in ways that assure you of our Lord’s presence in your life. I pray as well that we will continue to make Christ’s presence known in the lives of those who have need, knowing that one day we shall hear the Lord say “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” I wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +