Several years before I became the pastor here [at Tenth Church in Vancouver, BC], my predecessor was talking to a group of people at the church, encouraging them to host a potluck dinner as a way to connect with our neighbors. As he was doing this, a prominent member of the church vehemently objected, saying, "The day we start hosting potluck dinners here at Tenth will be the day my family and I leave."
Up until that point, Tenth Church was having their meals catered by fancy restaurants, four- and five-star hotels—and apparently this woman thought it was beneath the dignity of a "polite" Christian to participate in a potluck dinner. We have a great history as a church overall, but there was a time when Tenth had a decidedly upper-middle-class bias.
When I became the pastor in 1996, I began to pray that God would direct us. And as I was praying one day, I had this distinct sense that the Holy Spirit was saying, "If you will bless those who cannot repay you, I will bless you." I didn't know what that meant, but I sensed God was calling us to care for the poor and for those on the margins of our society. And then, as many of you know, a homeless person died outside of our building one cold February morning. Exposed to the cold, he just died. At that moment, I said we needed to begin a ministry that will help to shelter the homeless. We did, and we continue that ministry to this day.
Scripture tells us that God has a very special heart for the vulnerable, for those on the margins of our society. For example, Psalm 68:5 says God is "[a] father to the fatherless, a defender of widows." And we who bear God's image—and that would be all of us—are called to do the same. In Micah 6:8, in words I pray are ...
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Ken Shigematsu is pastor of Tenth Church in Vancouver, BC and the author of the award-winning, bestseller God in My Everything
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