Taking Action!

Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,you did it to me.’ ~ Matthew 25:40.

On Palm Sunday, March 24, First Presbyterian Church of Arlington will host a pot luck lunch after the 11 am service. This will be a great opportunity to create community with food. Bring a dish and help serve or clean up.

Let’s also use this opportunity to reach out to those in need. As you move around the community in the weeks ahead, reach out to those who are in need. Invite them to the luncheon. We have a unique opportunity to welcome people into our community and meet their need for food, drink, companionship, and community.



The Least among Us

Matthew 25:31-46

This story of the Judgment of Nations reminds us that we will have to account one day for our worldly actions. We’re led to ask, “Am I a sheep or a goat? Have I done what I can for the least among us?” The answer to the first question is difficult to know but depends on the second.

In our world, there is great need everywhere we turn. It is not limited to countries an ocean away or even to the neighborhood on the other side of town. We pass our neighbors in need on the streets, in the supermarket aisles, on the Metro train, and in the hallway at church. And the needs are not obvious. Hunger, thirst, illness, and nakedness are more noticeable than loneliness, grief, financial struggles, and the myriad of other problems that face many of us each day. The way to meeting some of these needs is clearer than others.

Pray for your neighbors, for those who hunger and thirst, for the lonely and sorrowful, for the sick and dying, and for those whose problems we cannot begin to comprehend. Let us reach out, even when it is not easy or familiar or comfortable. In fact, strive to reach out to those especially when it is difficult.

Are you a Martha or a Mary?

The reading for today’s reflection: Luke 10: 38-42.

Last summer, some of us in the Quarterlife Group at FPC Arlington formed a study group for a few weeks. The material we used was about managing stress with busy lives. This passage on Mary and Martha was part of it, and I offered my thoughts on the passage. Poor Martha! If she and her sister Mary were welcoming only Jesus for dinner, it would be manageable for one person to prepare and serve the meal. However, it’s clear from the surrounding passages that Jesus isn’t the lone traveler. The reflection in our curriculum refers to the assemblage as the “Jesus Academy.” Dozens or scores of people show up and poor Martha is left in the kitchen preparing the meal alone. She opens her home and her sister disappears at the time when she’s needed most. A meal that size neither prepares nor serves itself. I can’t tell if Jesus says what he does to calm or scold Martha. Working in the hospitality field, I feel for Martha.

What the author of our curriculum writes made me think of the passage in a different way. It’s always been clear to me that Mary wants to spend time and learn from Jesus. I forget about the true meaning behind “sat at the Lord’s feet” – Mary was a disciple. The discussion of gender roles is something that had previously been lost on me. In the previous chapter, a lawyer is told to provide hospitality, traditionally the role of a woman. Mary is welcomed into the fold of scholars, traditionally a male role.

Here we see Jesus as a social revolutionary. I pray that in my own life I may challenge assumptions as well and work for improvement in the world.  I need to focus on what is truly important and not get distracted by the daily tasks that can easily become distracting.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days and Compassion, Peace and Justice Training

To follow up on our discussion this past Sunday, I’m posting this message from Blair:

Here is the link for signing up for Compassion Peace and Justice Day: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/washington/compassion-peace-and-justice-training-day/

And here is more information about the weekend-long Ecumenical Advocacy Days:

These are great opportunities to find new ways to turn our mission-guided discussions into actions. Although I (Kyle) won’t be able to attend, I hope that some of you can go and share with the rest of us what you learned.

Thanks again to Blair!

Radio Mercury: Taking AFAC’s Hunger Challenge – Arlington Mercury

Radio Mercury: Taking AFAC’s Hunger Challenge – Arlington Mercury

Here’s a link to a story about people who took AFAC’s hunger challenge and tried to live on just over $4 per day. Listen the podcast (link in the article) for the full story. 

Thanks to Cathy and her husband Steve for passing this article along. Share your reflections on this piece and the challenge itself. Give some thought to whether you’re willing to take the challenge and let’s talk about it on Sunday.

Walking beyond our boundaries

Our reading for Unit 3, Day 2 was Matthew 13:31-33. The parable of the mustard seed is quite familiar – a small investment yielding unbelievable returns.

It’s the excerpts From Our Own Times that spoke to me. They focused on the Crop Walk. This is a great activity, and First Presbyterian takes part each year. Though it’s months away, keep this excellent service opportunity in mind. It’s a great way to build community with members of our church as well as members of other churches and to give back to the Arlington community and the greater world community.

Give thought to the Faith in Action Step for this day. Think of ways to learn more about those experiencing hunger in our own community. There are multiple ways to do this, but taking that first step is not easy. How do you carve out time to volunteer at AFAC? What about serving a meal at A-SPAN? Something as small as stopping and talking to a homeless person who you pass on the street everyday can seem like one of the most difficult things to do.

I’ve worked at the same place for the last four and a half years. Each day, I pass several homeless people – usually the same people – on my way between the bus or Metro and my office. Last winter, one of the regulars wasn’t there one morning. The following morning, there was a small sign in his usual place reading, “R.I.P. Mr. Richard.” Several passers-by had left flowers. I’d seen him practically everyday for more than three years and I didn’t even know his name until I saw that sign.

I pass several people everyday in the few blocks between the Metro and my office. I’ve given them money from time to time, given a weak and evasive smile as I pass by, and wished them good luck or to stay warm on a cold night, but I’ve never felt comfortable moving beyond that. This week, I’m going to challenge myself to say hello to one of the people I pass daily, to introduce myself and learn his name. I can’t promise that I’ll be successful, but I’m going to keep this in mind everyday when I walk to and from work.

To succeed I’ll need help from God, and I pray for his assistance and strength. My prayers will continue to be with the people I see everyday.

The Children

Lamentations 1:11, 2:11-12, 4:2-4

The text for Day 1 of Unit 3 is heart-wrenching. This is to be expected in an Old Testament book which literally laments the destruction of Jerusalem. The residents of the city were under siege for a year and a half. The full book tell the true desperation of the people as their food supplies ran low and they turned to unthinkable solutions to survive. 

In the context of our study of hunger, the images described by the author come to life. For me, they evoke commercials produced by aid organizations encouraging viewers to “adopt” a child to provide her with medical care, schooling, and food. The children in our reading are fainting like the wounded, crying out to their mothers, and are so pitiful that even animals are offering them sustenance. Our reading ends with the line, “the children beg for food, but no one gives them anything.”

As we prepare for class this week, let’s think of way that we can change the end of the reading. There are people begging for food in our community and around the world – senior citizens, people in the prime of their lives, and even children. What can we do to help them? Check the Opportunities and Resources pages to learn more, but let’s add to those opportunities in class this week. 

Nuturing our bodies

Reading: An Invitation to Abundant Life ~ Isaiah 55:1-2

OK, I’ll admit it. I love to eat. I wish I could say that I love to eat fruits and vegetables, that whenever I go out I order the salad (dressing on the side, no bread please), and an indulgent dessert for me is a single piece of dark chocolate. This would be so much easier that admitting that I struggle most days not to pop into CVS on the way home and buy some sort of gummy candy and a bag of goldfish – both of which are inevitably gone before dinner an hour later.

One of my favorite meals growing up was centered on roulards. (If you’ve never had roulards, you will be delighted to learn that they are small pieces of beef wrapped in bacon and then cooked. Basically, it’s a bacon burger on a toothpick.) Fridays nights were ALWAYS pizza night. As proud Kentuckians, we supported the Colonel regularly. I was more likely to skip a meal in a day than I was to choose a salad.

All this is to say that I fully hear the call in the Faith in Action Step for Unit 2, Day 2. Heeding it is a more difficult thing. However, being a Weight Watcher for two years has helped me to learn that making small changes each day can yield great results. Buy the brown rice over the white rice, choose the salmon over the prime rib, and find new ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into each meal and snacks. Set goals and give yourself healthy rewards when you achieve a goal. Share your experience with others, and don’t get discouraged if you find yourself in the candy or snack aisle.

In the midst of trying to make these changes, pray for strength and thank God for the abundance of options we have.