Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Than Changing Clothes

I gave away my favorite coat- the warmest one, the one that has traveled to Russia in winter, the one that refuses to wear out. Every year when there is a call for coats for the homeless, I have looked at the coat and passed it by. I rarely wear it, but the sentimentality of it has made me hold onto it like a prize that I just can’t part with. So I give away other things and this year I was piling up other coats and hats and things that are easier to part with. What if Christ was going to wear that coat? Which would you part with?
A couple weeks ago there was a drive to stock the food bank. And many people supported it. It is wonderful that people do in fact buy food to give, but I noticed that the food we keep is the good stuff and the food we share is the store brand. Stores ran specials just for that purpose. But rather than buy the amount of the store brand that equals the good stuff, do we just feel good that we filled the list and have more money left because we were thrifty? “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” If the answer was Christ, what would we serve and how would we prepare?
In all of the preparations of this holiday season we treat ourselves with special foods and outfits and things. Do we ever wake up one day and decide to treat the homeless? Do we find ourselves holding onto the better things in the belief that “they won’t take care of them?” Are we just looking for an excuse to not live into a deeper understanding of what John says in answer to the people who ask, “What then shall we do?”

We are called to do more than just change clothes when we hear, "If you have two coats, give one away." What if we looked at the math of this- giving away one of two is giving away half. Not giving away one of my many, giving deeply. John even addresses those who have to eke out a living under adverse even hostile conditions- tax collectors, soldiers. Live within what is honest and has integrity. Live without striving to constantly have more. Live into the reality that God’s breaking into our midst is life changing to the core.
Radical talk to suggest that we can repent, can turn away from the world’s reality and live in the “enough” of God. That we can believe in God more than ourselves. Radical talk it would be to speak of stewardship two weeks before Christmas. Proof of that when I asked my Friday Bible study group how people would react if I preached on stewardship this close to Christmas. What if we bought all the presents for everyone and then gave away half? What if instead of buying all the presents we took half the money and used it for what our brothers and sisters without enough really need?
I already had a good sized pile of things to share, but I came back to that coat. Because as easy as it is to decide to give away what might otherwise be chaff to me might be a good start if I had never given anyone anything, to stay in that place is like changing my coat and not what is inside. It suggests that I am still hedging my bets about God’s reality and providing. Christ is coming to put everything in its proper place- in the waiting of now, the proper place for the warmest most durable coat, with all the pockets and the hood that kept me warm at the Arctic Circle is on the person who would shiver in the cold without it.

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