by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
One of the ironies of any kind of publishing is the lag between when something is written and when it is read. I’m writing this just before Christmas and when you read it, it will be around New Year’s. Not only that but this column was inspired by something that happened just before Thanksgiving—in other words, a true “holiday column.”
During the 1996 Maplewood/Richmond Heights Church Cluster Thanksgiving service, a woman told the story behind the Health Ministry (Parish Nurse) program. The pastors and lay representatives talked about it for two months without accomplishing anything. Then they decided the Cluster needed a “mission statement,” and they spent another two months drafting one. As I listened, I couldn’t help thinking about a portion of that morning's sermon text:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40 RSV).
Perhaps you also need a “mission statement” for doing God’s work. If so, surely this is all anyone needs:
Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Welcome the strangers
Clothe the naked
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
I can only add one thing:
Preach the gospel
If you’re the traditional type, instead of a “mission statement,” you can think of it as a New Year’s resolution. It can be a resolution to be a witness, a resolution to carry out the mission of spreading the gospel.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 RSV.)