'Justice, Mercy and Kindness - week 4: The Poor' with Claire Lynch and guests - November 18th 2018

How can followers of Jesus be involved with practical love and service for people in need around us? Includes stories about the LRG Life Recovery Group, The Wing and CAP - Christians Against Poverty.

"This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’" Zechariah 7:9-10 (NIV)

0:00 Introduction

We are nearing the end of a series considering four people groups that God has a heart for. The goal is for us to pray with insight, to give generously and to get involved.

In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus talked about a time we would stand before God, who says:

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

This is on God's heart, and our desire at Severn is to own that passion too. We have all been created with a purpose:

“For we are God’s handwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

We are not to be defined by what we do. God loves us to enjoy "just being" with him, and to know his unconditional love. But if we lack an outlet for the love we receive from God, we can stagnate.

This is similar to the way the Dead Sea is different from the Sea of Galilee. The latter receives water from the River Jordan which flows through, as there is also an outlet. As a result, this sea is full of life. But the Dead Sea receives the same water and has no outlet. Water can only evaporate, leaving the sea full of minerals but unfit for life.

If all we do is take in and take in, but never have an outlet, we become stagnant and there is no life within us.

Instead, our Father God gives us security and love as his children, then invites us to join in the family business to bring fulness of life to everyone.

6:15 "The poor", the "haves" and "have nots"

God has a special place in his heart for the poor; poverty is mentioned in the Bible over 2000 times. This is not just about financial weakness, but people who are marginalised and powerless in society, lacking social respect as well as material goods.

Carol Wimber used to talk about the "haves" and "have nots". We might be "haves" one day and "have nots" another day, when we need someone to share resources and influence to help change our circumstances.

At Severn, we lean towards those who are suffering and in need in our society, not because we believe we are better than someone else or because we believe we can fix anyone, but because we ourselves have experienced the kindness and mercy of God.

We believe each person we meet is made in the image of God, loved and with their own talents and purposes from God. We can't truly worship God without loving and valuing what God loves. There are lots of opportunities to serve people in need in our city.

9:10 Life Recovery Group (LRG)

LRG supports people affected by substance misuse, mental health problems or compulsive behaviour. It trains churches who want to learn and support, including people from Severn. It also hosts groups in Easton, Southmead and Knowle for people to explore recovery and faith in a supportive community.

Rachel Goodchild has represented Severn in the Easton group (meeting Fridays 4-6pm at Easton Family Centre), and will lead this group from January with others from Severn.

The recording of this talk (from 11:25) includes comments from people involved with LRG, how it has helped them to learn, feel strengthened and connected, and be themselves in a friendly, non-judgmental environment. Rachel said that she feels the group belongs to God, and loves the honesty, fun, friendship and togetherness in the group. Anyone interested is welcome to join in as a member or volunteer.

16:15 The Wing

The Wing is a new boutique YMCA hostel in the centre of Bristol. Part of its vision is to get alongside temporarily homeless 16-25 year olds.

Chaplain Julia Clapp described the emotional and spiritual support they provide, and explained that The Wing was named as a place of "under wing" nurture but also "take wing" empowerment. She gave the example of a young person who had come to The Wing after family relationships broke down, and gradually opened up and felt increasingly at home among The Wing's community as people got to know her. After a death in her family, she asked how to pray and experienced peace and positivity she took with her to her next housing.

The Wing is looking for volunteer mentors and befrienders. Severn is also collecting toiletries and other essentials for welcome packs, as well as treats for Christmas packs.

24:15 South Bristol and CAP (Christians Against Poverty)

Severn has taken up the use of office space in a part of Bristol with high unemployment and special educational needs, along with lower than average life expectancy. One initiative planned for this office is a CAP Debt Centre. CAP does not currently have a Debt Centre in South Bristol, and we are currently recruiting for a manager - see here.

We have also been training people to run a CAP Life Skills course to help people make ends meet, budget and eat healthily, and enjoy good relationships and forgiveness. In a video (from 27:55) one person describes the difference this made in their life, including discovering life-changing faith.

Everyone said, “What’s happened to you? You are so different.” And I was like, “It’s Jesus!” and everyone said, “I want some of that!”... four generations saved through CAP.
— Alice, CAP Life Skills participant

Shelley Neal is managing the Life Skills course and will be training helpers after Christmas.

32:45 Conclusion

My prayer is that God will fill our hearts with his compassion; that we will allow him to break our hearts for the things that break his; that out of the overflow of the love we have from him, that we extend that same love to those around us in need.
— Claire Lynch

Next week there will be a Special Offering to go to a selection of the organisations mentioned during this series.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58:6-7)

For group discussion

In the Scriptures, it seems God has a special place in his heart for the poor. Poverty is mentioned, directly or indirectly, more than 2000 times in Bible.

The Vineyard family of Churches leans towards the poor, the outcast, and the outsider with the compassion of Jesus. From the beginning of our movement, Vineyard Churches have worked to actively serve the poor in the most practical ways possible - in our towns, cities, and spheres of influence. John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard, was personally committed to calling us to a radically compassionate life in the way of Jesus.

Study the following verses on what the Bible says about the poor:

  • Deuteronomy 15:7-8

  • Deuteronomy 15:11

  • Isaiah 58: 6-10

  • Luke 4:18

  • Luke 14:13-14

  • Galatians 2:10

  • James 2:5

  • Matthew 25:35-46

To discuss:

  • What are the ways in which Jesus calls us to care for the poor?

  • What are the ways in which you see the outworking of this in your life, your church and in the Vineyard?

  • What ‘good works’ do you know that God has prepared in advance for you to do? We know that we are doing this, when our deep passion meets the world’s deep need.

  • Share stories of ways in which you have cared for those in need around you.

  • Are there things about caring for others in need that you find challenging? What are they, and what are the ways in which you would like to grow in this?