“You have been present with the Lord in worship in both Word and Sacrament. Now go out into God’s beloved world and look for Jesus: in the ragged and the imprisoned, in the oppressed and the hungry, in those who have lost hope and in those who are struggling to do good. Look for Jesus in them, and when you find him there, gird yourself with the towel of his fellowship, and wash his feet.”
As a newly confirmed Episcopalian, I have grown to cherish the liturgical songs, rites and expressions. The quote above, adapted from the writing of the late Frank Weston, Anglican Bishop of Zanzibar, resonated with today’s (Nov. 26) Gospel lectionary from Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus reminds his followers that their service to those who are strangers, hungry, thirsty, naked or imprisoned is in fact service and worship to Him as part of the coming Kingdom. How do we live as a people pointing toward the Kingdom while a dominant culture points in other directions? This isn’t a new situation for the people of God but still presents a responsibility to imitate the sons of Issachar from 1 Chronicles: to know the times and to act upon them. For a similar and more modern call, Karl Barth calls us to “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”
“There is a two-fold beauty in a congregation of believers that gathers to worship the Lord in Word and Sacrament followed by the endless effort to serve our neighbor.”
All Saints, Portsmouth, is a place where service and love intersects with the surrounding community. Each day, opportunities to love in thought, word and deed are shared through countless efforts: card-signing Sunday (a time to sign cards for birthdays and messages of care), donations for the local food pantry or college pantry, or day care, volunteering at the weekly Loaves and Fishes meal prepared each Saturday in the parish hall, or purchasing supplies for the St. Paul & St. Silas Prison Ministry. Through the week less visible miracles also take place through blood drives, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and individuals visiting the parish office requesting assistance in obtaining personal ID. Our little place on the corner of 4th and Court Streets is known as a place to gather and to receive love.
There is a two-fold beauty in a congregation of believers that gathers to worship the Lord in Word and Sacrament followed by the endless effort to serve our neighbor. It’s worth noting that Jesus’ instructions are free of restrictions. Regardless of income, history, privilege or identity, we are called to serve. The aforementioned Gospel of Matthew passage was read on “Christ the King” Sunday, where we recognize and honor a counter-cultural King who girds himself with a towel to serve instead of a sword or chariot or council or law.
All Saints is a community marked by the outpouring of love in ways known and unknown. It’s the heartbeat of this church, the rhythm of its soul season by season. To serve well means to listen closely to the surrounding community whether it be word of mouth or printed in the local newspaper. It also means we must try new ideas and efforts as the needs of our community change. I believe we are called to be attentive to the shifts and changes surrounding our local town and beyond. Just like the sons of Issachar, we must know the times and act upon them.
Like many small towns, we see poverty, addiction, loneliness, and hunger. However, we also see hope, thriving and beauty. These are gifts along the journey as Kingdom builders. We see small fruits and know we plant seeds to the future. Each week the liturgy reminds of us of the hope of the Gospel as we give vocationally beyond the walls of the church – as we abide in homes, serve in workplaces, and enter many other circles of our society.
What All Saints represents is rare and beautiful in our world: a warm, caring, compassionate community, worshipping with gladness and boldly serving our neighbors. The world will know we are Christians by our love.
Lindsay K. Monihen is a member of All Saints, Portsmouth, and Director of the College of Professional Studies Student Advising and Support Services at Shawnee State University.