|Posted by email@example.com on July 31, 2022 at 5:45 AM||comments (17)|
The mission of Hands of Christ is to bring Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations together to meet the basic needs of children, showing them Christ’s love.
We do this the three weeks before schools starts by providing clothes and school supplies to children K-4 through 8th grade. Since 2003 we have served over 60,000 children.
I want to tell you about just one of them.
Friday night at the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery office in North Charleston, my task was to be the greeter and the outside crowd control.
As each family reached the door I say something like the following:
Welcome to Hands of Christ. We will get you inside in just a moment. We will get you masked up due to the virus and then you will move to the registration desk. After that we will match your child up with a shopping buddy, give them a paper bag, and together they will shop for clothes and school supplies. At the end you will get a Bible story book.
When we first opened the doors, the line outside was about twenty families long and as new families kept arriving at about the rate I was letting each family in. After about thirty minutes one little blonde haired, blue-eyed girl, about second grade I would guess, was now at the front of the line with two women, one of whom I suspected was her mother. I went through my little speech. One of the women then turned to the other and started talking. It caught my ear. It sounded Russian. So I said, “Dobray den. Myna zavoot Jim”. The two women turned to me and looked shocked. I asked, “Where are you from?” “Ukraine” “How long have you been here?” “Three months”
Being able to help little Anastasia, given the ordeal that she has left behind, melted my heart.
I want to invite you to have your heart melted, too, to come volunteer, this coming Friday at 4PM or Saturday at 10PM at Second Presbyterian Church or at one of our other sites.
More info may be found at www.handsofchrist.net or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
A Minute for Mission at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, Sunday July 31, 2022
|Posted by email@example.com on May 11, 2020 at 1:20 PM||comments (250)|
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Hands of Christ,
The Operations Team of Hands of Christ met last week to discuss and discern the path before us.
While we have the certainty of a God who loves and cares for us and all of creation, we live in a world of much physical uncertainty. Below are the facts we as we know them.
1) If there is not a return to face-to-face instruction in the fall, there could be no distribution.
2) Due to the unknown rules for social distancing which will be required, we do not see a way that we could conduct a normal distribution due the large number of volunteers and family members that are normally present to pick out their clothing and supplies.
3) The supply chain we rely on for our clothing is at a standstill, as clothing products are made in China and shipped over water to here. There is nothing coming out of China and nothing on the water. Available clothing is either now in US warehouses or will not be available.
4) Due to uncertainty as to when children are to return to school and under what conditions, we do not see a way that we can organize a new distribution schedule to be able to perform outside of the normal end of July/ early August distribution dates. To go earlier or later would cause conflicts of availability of the facilities at Westminster Presbyterian Church, which they so generously provide us.
5) We are blessed to have an inventory on hand that could serve about 2000 children with one set of clothing. We normally serve ~5000 children with two sets each.
6) We have an obligation to help as we can. The need this year will be as great as it ever has been.
7) We have an obligation to protect the health of the children and families that we serve.
8 ) We have an obligation to protect the health of our volunteers.
9) The Operations Team, as are many of the volunteers in our member congregations, are 65 or older and/or have compromising conditions.
10) The need to practice social distancing and disinfection of facilities as well as our limited inventory would limit the number of sites and/or children we could serve on a given day.
11) The possibility of a drive-through distribution with families remaining in their cars, given the heat and humidity of the dog days of the Lowcountry summer, is nonviable.
12) Mid-July will be here before we know it. Decisions need to be made so that the Operations Team can properly plan as well as our member congregations.
Therefore, we have reached the sad conclusion that the Operations Team cannot this year support a face-to-face distribution.
However, we have come up with a way to serve 2000 children and to involve our member congregations.
We will wait until after the first few weeks of school have passed and approach the schools we serve to provide us with the names, genders, and sizes of children in need. There would be a limit for each school as to how many children can be helped. The school would gather the data on each child, forward it to us, and we would on Friday afternoons and Saturdays in September, when Westminster is available, fill bags with the requested clothing, one set per child. The following week, with the help of our member congregations, we would deliver the bags to the schools for them to distribute. All of our current inventory will be dedicated to providing for delivery to schools directly. We have used such a process for years for addressing emergency situations during the school year.
Stand-alone distributions that do not require the assistance of the Operations Team are free to move forward as they see fit. Congregations who wish to conduct their own distributions would of course follow the requirements for social distancing, disinfection, etc., considering carefully their facility lay-outs and the number of people (volunteers and those we help) involved. We all must consider both the legal and moral liabilities Hands of Christ and our participating congregations might face if not done properly. Those stand-alone distributions may also want to consider a delivery of clothing directly to the schools in their neighborhoods. That is certainly their choice. Due to our limited inventory, all of our current stock of clothing and school supplies will be used for the school delivery-based operation out of Westminster and will not be available to the stand-alone distributions.
We grieve at the loss of the face-to-face contact we have with each child, of the chance to show them Christ’s hands in action, and to share his love in person. We also grieve of not being able to do that work with our member congregations and in their facilities. However, our discernment process leads us to believe that this is the wisest course of action.
We pray that we can return to our normal distribution in 2021.
Grace and peace,
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on August 4, 2019 at 8:20 PM||comments (154)|
Hands of Christ Benefit Concert
Rev. Cameron Smith
July 28, 2019
On behalf of the St. James, James Island, and Harbor View Presbyterian Churches, I would like to thank you for taking time on this beautiful Sunday evening to worship with us as we celebrate God’s hand at work through the Hands of Christ ministry, a ministry that is near and dear to many of our hearts. I would like to begin by asking each of you to take your hands and hold them palms up in your laps and repeat after me, “These are the Hands of Christ.” Now, I would like for you to hold the hands of the people sitting closest to you and repeat after me, “These are the hands of Christ.” This bold and brazen statement is, at its core, the central theme of the Hands of Christ: the mind-blowing idea that my hands and your hands could somehow be transformed into Christ’s hands when they are set about Christ’s work to let children come to him.
Sixteen year ago, the first Hands of Christ distribution was held as a partnership between the Zion-Olivet and Westminster Presbyterian congregations. Since then, 56,581 children have been served as one volunteer takes one child by the hand with the understanding that these are the Hands of Christ. If you have had the opportunity to serve as volunteer with Hands of Christ, you know the joy that goes into taking that child by the hand, the hope that they radiate with a new year of possibilities, and the love that you see in their parents’ eyes as they watch their children take this next step. If you have had the added privilege of serving on the Hands of Christ Steering Committee, Operations Team, or Board of Directors you know the added energy, sweat, and passion that goes into making each distribution possible. They say it’s the Holy Spirit that sees them through three weeks of almost daily distributions, but even this preacher isn’t sure how they do it year after year. With God (and caffeine), all things are possible.
Many of us know how the Hands of Christ have helped the children among us, but today I wanted to share a story of how the Hands of Christ have been working behind the scenes. I have worked at James Island Presbyterian Church for almost eighteen years now. Many days, I like to take my laptop and my work out to the church graveyard to enjoy the ocean breeze that comes down the Folly Road corridor and the shade that is cast by centuries-old oaks. While some people may find the idea of hanging out with dead people disturbing, it’s actually a very peaceful place and my neighbors never distract me from my work. It didn’t take me long to realize something about those old bones that surrounded me. We actually have two separate graveyards on the corner of Fort Johnson and Folly Roads that are divided by an azalea hedge and a chain-link fence. One is for St. James, and one is for James Island.
At the end of the Civil War, the freed slaves who had worshiped at James Island Presbyterian took a walk down the road to form their own congregation. These former slaves had been called members, but even within the church, they were not recognized as equals. They needed a place to worship freely, to form a community, and to support one another through the valleys and mountaintop experiences of life. And so there were two Presbyterian Churches on James Island. Then, in 1967 with the James Island community transitioning from farmland to neighborhoods, Charleston Presbytery approved the Harbor View Presbyterian New Church Development. And so there were three Presbyterian Churches on James Island.
There were days in our history when an African American family might show up at James Island and be asked if they were looking for St. James as they were sent on their way down the street. From time to time, a group might move their membership from James Island to Harbor View or vice versa for any number of reasons. However, for the most part, the three churches kept to themselves and rarely traveled the roads that led to one another. Don’t get me wrong, at least in recent years, we were polite. We greeted one another at presbytery events and we found solidarity with our fellow Presbyterians in the James Island Community Thanksgiving Service, but we didn’t know one another beyond the surface.
In Ezekiel 37, the prophet tells the story of his vision in the valley of dry bones, “The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
As I learned more and more of our churches shared and separate histories, it was as if I walked through the church graveyard, surrounded by the bones of the saints who have gone before. I heard the same words, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Can these people who have been separated by time, racism, fear, culture, and division be brought together as the one Body of Christ? “O Lord, only you know.”
And that is where the Hands of Christ came in and started piecing the bones back together. In 2008, the choirs of James Island, St. James, and Harbor View Presbyterian Churches joined together to host the first benefit concert for Hands of Christ. It was one of the most amazing nights I can remember where the Spirit of God surrounded and uplifted us in worship as we sang, cried, and – yes, we danced. It took me to the valley of dry bones In Ezekiel, “suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”
The following year, we added a James Island Hands of Christ distribution. As we worshipped God with one voice and served our neighbors alongside one another, the Hands of Christ pieced the bones together and the Spirit of God breathed life into them as we began to see each other as a part of the One Body of Christ. Again, don’t get me wrong. As my friend and colleague Pat Jones says, “It’s not all skittles and rainbows.” There is work to be done to come together to work for justice and peace right here on James Island, starting in our churches. But, the roads that we once took to get away from one another now lead us back to open doors and hearts, and we are committed to continue traveling those roads together.
As I reflect on all the Hands of Christ have done over the past sixteen years, I am amazed. Isn’t that just like Jesus? Our miracle-working, resurrecting, reconciling Lord? When we stopped being so worried about ourselves and our differences and started focusing on coming together for our common call to love God in worship and love our neighbor in service, he breathed LIFE into some very dry, old bones. And so today, we give thanks for the Hands of Christ: for Christ’s hands that will welcome a new group of children by taking one hand at a time; and for Christ’s hands that have brought us together tonight.
|Posted by email@example.com on August 5, 2018 at 4:10 PM||comments (1493)|
It’s all about helping the kids
by The Press and Standard | August 2, 2018 8:19 am
“I knew something had to be done. The boy was in the third grade at the school where I was a volunteer. He refused to get up from his desk at lunchtime. Wouldn’t budge. His teacher asked me to help. When I finally coaxed him to stand, his pants fell to his ankles. They were a men’s size #34; and they were all he had to wear.” Jim Frye told this story Saturday at Aimwell Presbyterian Church in Neyles. He and Dr. Tammy Carter began Hands of Christ in 2003. The program provides two free school uniforms, other clothing, grade-related school supplies, books and food for ages 3K-8th grade. “The first year, we bought clothes for 200 children. When we opened the doors, the line of people waiting stretched for three blocks. I knew we were on to something,” Frye said. “We will serve 250 families this morning,” said Lesley Holmes, the program’s coordinator at Aimwell Church. “We have about 75 volunteers helping this morning, including 17 from churches in Pennsylvania.” Pastor Leah Miller of Anchor Presbyterian Church in Wrightsville, Pa., brings a youth group to South Carolina every summer. “We stay a week and help hand out clothes. We love being able to serve in this way,” Miller said. She discovered the program from members of her church who spend half of each year in South Carolina, the rest in Pennsylvania. “Our kids love it. We have a waiting list to come,” she said. “This is a way for our members to give back, serve and praise God,” said Aimwell’s Pastor Perry Griffin. “We have been part of the program for five years.” In 2018, Hands of Christ will serve 5,700 families at 18 sites. “We continue to grow each year,” said Dr. Carter. “In addition to the clothes we distribute, we began the program as a way to build bridges between churches. This year we will expand the program to Clinton in Laurens County.” “It takes about $35 to serve each child,” said Frye. It’s easy to do the math. “We’re spending about $175,000 this year, most of it raised by individual churches. We have some corporate sponsors, but, honestly, our churches and volunteers give most of the money. Once people come see these children and their smiles, they want to give. We will serve 500-600 children in Colleton County.” Hands of Christ will be at Bethel Presbyterian Church on Saturday Aug. 4. Doors open at 10 a.m. Mayor Bill Young is one of the volunteers. “Bethel has participated in Hands of Christ for a number of years. Lenore Hickman, Martha Johnson, Brooke Parker and many other volunteers have done an outstanding job organizing the event, Young said. “It is so rewarding to be able to see the good that this does in our own community. Several hundred children will benefit from this program, as will all those who volunteer. We feel very fortunate to be able to help with the Hands of Christ event.” “One more story,” said Frye. “Several years ago, we served a little girl. After picking out her outfits, she came to me; said she wanted to pay for her clothes. I held out my hand, she smiled and gave me all she had — 36 cents. It would not have meant more if it had been a million dollars.”
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on August 6, 2017 at 7:00 AM||comments (513)|
The Six Great Ends of the Church (From the Book of Order F-1.0304)
The great ends of the church are:
*The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind
*The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God
*The maintenance of divine worship
*The preservation of the truth
*The promotion of social righteousness
*The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world
(This statement of the great ends of the Church, slightly edited in the Book of Order, came from the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in 1958. The statement was then made a part of the Constitution of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, as the body was called. This now classic statement was adopted by the United Presbyterian Church of North America in 1910, following various actions between 1904 and 1910 looking forward to the revision of the church’s Constitution.)
Soli deo gloria
|Posted by email@example.com on August 2, 2017 at 9:00 AM||comments (106)|
Do you know about Hands of Christ?
---DID YOU KNOW---There are no public programs to assist families by providing school clothes and supplies. Nope, no “school lunch” for clothing and supplies. All parents know it is hard enough to send children to school in properly fitting, clean clothes every day, but imagine doing it when you have no in-home laundry facilities, or no home at all. Shopping for clothes and supplies with little children in tow can be stressful, but imagine if you have no transportation. Clothing growing children can tax any budget, but imagine you must choose between clothing and food. These are the types of need Hands of Christ seeks to meet.
--Each summer in the three weeks before school starts, Hands of Christ is on the road, holding distributions at Presbyterian churches from Edisto to McClellanville, from Johns Island to Kingstree--and this year all the way to Orangeburg! Hands of Christ began in 2003 as a partnership between Zion-Olivet and Westminster Presbyterian Churches. By 2016, the number of congregations supporting this ministry with volunteer hours and donations (both in-kind and monetary) had reached more than 24 and the number of children assisted topped 47,000. A thousand volunteers a year are the fuel that runs this bus--AND YOU ARE INVITED TO BE A PART OF IT!
Hands of Christ needs volunteers:
-- Volunteers are needed at most distribution locations for a variety of tasks, but mostly (and most rewarding) as “shopping buddies.” Each child who comes to us is assigned a volunteer to be their best friend while leading the child through the distribution site to help him or her pick out two shirts, two pair of pants (or other “Bottoms” two pairs of undies and two pairs of socks. No experience necessary; we have a crew that helps assess sizes and fit.
--Additional volunteers are welcome behind the scenes at Westminster PC, where the program is housed; there will be almost daily work each morning preparing for distributions.
Hands of Christ welcomes help in publicizing its mission. Does your church know individual families in need or have connections to organizations that help children and families? Hands of Christ is there for those in the community who need the help getting their children outfitted for school. There are only three requirements: 1. The child must be present; we cannot give out clothing and supplies if the child is not physically present. 2. There must be some adult present who is responsible for the child. One adult can bring more than one child and that adult does not have to be a parent or legal guardian. 3. A child can receive clothing and supplies from only one location each year. It does not matter where the child is served or *what school the child attends; the parent or responsible adult can bring the child to whichever distribution is convenient. We ask they they not go to more than one location, however, so that we can be sure we have enough for every child who needs clothing and supplies to get their share. Anyone who would like a poster or other promotional materials please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
To volunteer or ask questions, contact Catherine Byrd at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 843-209-5917 or catch her on the fly at the presbytery office.
|Posted by email@example.com on July 30, 2017 at 7:15 PM||comments (142)|
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand (NIV) JOHN 6: 1-16
John 6:1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 Jesus asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, Jesus said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
There was a need. The people were hungry. Jesus did something about it thanks to a small donation from one unknown yet now famous boy with two small fish and 5 small loaves of barley, probably more like muffins. With that a miracle came about.
Fish and loaves multiplied and 5,000 were served --- and that wasn’t counting the women and children that were present. If you use Mr. Frye’s magic multiplier of 2.3 that would come to 11,500 people.
There was a need. The children needed clothes and school supplies.
In 2002, two pastors talked about that need and what their two congregations could do to try to meet that need.
Five adults and three youth traveled to Austin, TX to El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church to observe the back-to-school distribution of Manos de Cristo. They observed, talked, prayed, and decided that we could replicate that program here in Charleston. Two congregations, Westminster and Zion Olivet, came together to form the anglicized version of Manos de Cristo, the Hands of Christ.
Originally thinking that we could serve a couple of hundred children with our “two fish and five loaves”, it suddenly multiplied with the help of a grant from the Presbyterian Women’s Thank Offering, and miracle of miracles, we served 1006 children that first year.
Multiplication kept taking place. First (Scots), Edisto, and Hebron Zion came on board. Then Moncks Corner and Mount Pleasant, followed by Park Circle and Saint James in partnership with James Island and Harbor View. Add in Sunrise and Palmetto and others. Before long, we had over two dozen congregations supporting this program.
We went from just over 1000 to 2000 children per year, and then 3000, and then 4000. Last year we served 4692 children, and cumulatively we have served 48,000 children in these 14 years since 2003. While that number is impressive, more important is the number one. That’s how many children we focus on at a time, one child, be it William or Grace, Shaquille or Shania, Jose or Maria as we show them Christ’s love and hospitality.
4692 last year. When Mr. Frye sat down with his team to do the planning for this year, realizing that we were adding an Orangeburg distribution plus an extra day in North Charleston at Zion Olivet, it became clear that we could well hit the 5,000 mark this year.
5,000 children. Sometimes just two in the back seat seems like an awful lot! 5,000 children. That means 10,000 shirts, 10,000 pairs of pants or shorts or skirts or skorts, 10,000 pairs of socks, and 10,000 sets of underwear. 10,000 glue sticks, 40,000 pencils, 50,000 pens. A miracle indeed.
People often ask how we do it. I simply respond that it is the work of the Holy Spirit because we didn’t exactly know what we were doing when we started and at times I’m not sure we know what we are doing now!
I also tell them that it’s been a “loaves and fish” operation. Thanks to a few grants each year, but more importantly thanks to the God’s grace via the generosity of our congregations and of individuals, we’ve never had to worry about money. God has kept providing. Now, that doesn’t mean for folks to stop contributing, this six-figure operation needs to keep on going. We don’t have 12 basketfuls of leftovers at the end, but we have enough to get a good start on the subsequent year.
Jesus took the loaves and fish and after he blessed it the distribution was made.
I’m certainly no Jesus, and our distributions have already started, but I want to thank you and bless you. It’s because of, most importantly God’s grace, exhibited through your generosity of time, talents, and treasure, that we are able to do this year after year.
Thanks be to God!
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 29, 2017 at 8:25 PM||comments (94)|
|Posted by email@example.com on September 7, 2016 at 10:05 AM||comments (100)|
Our 14th distribution season in the Lowcountry sent us well past the 45,000 mark of children served since we first began in 2003. In 2016 we served 4692 children from 2066 families. We could not have done it without the help of the most awesome of volunteers, over 1000, who served from served children in five counties in the Lowcountry (Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Laurens, and Williamsburg counties) as well as at Thornwell in Clinton.
North Charleston became a special focus for two reasons. First, the Park Circle congregation was dissolved at their request by Charleston Atlantic Presbytery earlier in the year. Recognizing the need in the Park Circle area we were able to hold a distribution there even though there was no longer a congregation to host us. Volunteers from the many churches enable us to pull this off. Secondly, we opened a second site in North Charleston as Zion Olivet relocated from downtown to share facilities with Advent Lutheran Church on Rivers Avenue. The single day distribution there went exceedingly well as members from both congregations were joined by many volunteers from our member churches.
The annual benefit concert was again uplifting and energizing as the choirs of Harbor View, James Island, and St. James again treated us to great music and worship. It was followed by a delicious spaghetti benefit supper.
The first week we were again blessed to have the youth mission team from Anchor Presbyterian Church Newtown, PA with Pastor Leah Miller as our guests! They were a great help with loading, unloading, setting up, and helping with the distributions. They also brought along youth and adult advisors from Woodside Presbyterian Church in Yardley, PA.
Thanks to our amazing Road Crew under the Direction of Operations Jim Frye. They traveled to every site to deliver supplies and clothes and oftentimes help lead the distribution effort. Our Road Crew expanded its membership both in order to lighten its load as well as to further along the paths of succession that time requires as it marches on.
The after-distribution fellowship meals were awesome and depending on the site we ate ribs, red rice, spaghetti, cole slaw, fresh fruit, fried chicken, smoked ham, pizza, chicken salad, tossed salad, lasagna, barbeque pork, and many other delicious items. The first half of our mission statement is to “bring Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations together. Besides working side by side, it is at these meals that friendships are further cemented.
We were blessed with financial resources from our member congregations, grants from the Exchange Club of Charleston and the sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, and in-kind donations from Walmart and Fruit of the Loom. Kiawah Cares helped financially and brought volunteers to our distribution at Hebron Zion.
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 31, 2016 at 7:35 PM||comments (123)|
July 31, 2016 Hands of Christ Benefit Concert
Today’s Scripture is the story of Jesus blessing the children. Matthew 19:13-15
Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." And he laid his hands on them and went on his way…
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
This passage is familiar to all of us. If you have worked at any of the Hands of Christ distributions this past week you have also heard it as part of the Blessing of the Hands service, that time in which we gather together prior to serving the children each day to center ourselves on the purpose of the day. If you work at any the upcoming distributions this passage will again be heard by you.
When hearing this passage, I often focus on the disciples being scolded by Jesus for trying to “shoosh” away the children.
Today I want to focus on Jesus’ actions with the children. He made them a priority. They were going to be the most important thing in his life for the time that they had together. Jesus was going to take the time lay his hands on them and to bless them.
Can’t you see Jesus addressing each one individually, calling them by name, … and they had on no name tags?
“Miriam, how are you? What’s your doll’s name? ‘Nitsa?’ That’s a nice name for a doll. Bless you Miriam and bless you Nitsa.”
“Ben, what happened to you? You are missing two teeth. I bet you are in second grade and can’t wait for your new teeth to grow back in. Let me assure you that they will.”
“David, good afternoon!” How have you been? You know, my dad was a carpenter, too. Make sure you learn as much as you can from him. Remember, measure twice, cut once.”
“Rebecca! I’ve been waiting all day for you to come see me. How’s that scraped knee doing? Can I touch it and make it feel better?”
Jesus was going to make each one feel special.
Jill Duffield, the editor of The Presbyterian Outlook in her recent column of July 18, told of her neighbor, who said he was going to write a book entitled “We Use to Stop on Yellow,” lamenting how we have made our over-scheduled lives so hectic. This gentleman, Jill reports, always made time for others. There was no need to run the stoplight as there would be enough time anyway at the end of his journey to tend to whatever matters might be at hand. The neighbor was always willing to stop to help with the plumbing, take care of the pets, or just pull in the driveway to chat if he saw them out in the yard.
How often do I drive home tired after a day at the College and dash in my house, barely waving to Chase and Jackson as they play ball in the yard next door or Faith and Olivia on their bicycles? What about at work, when I whiz by my administrative assistant’s office and fail to ask how Lisa how her son Jake did in the swim meet the night before?
Jesus was different. He was like Jill’s neighbor. Jesus was always stopping to chat or help out. Heal a lame person here, a deaf one down the road; to a blind man, “Here put this mud on your eyes and have your sight restored.” Can’t get in the pool fast enough?-- Just throw away your crutch and get up and walk. The woman at the well, a Samaritan no less, he was willing to spend time with her, just talking, and changed her life.
Jesus wasn’t sending texts, tweets, Instagrams or Snapchats or posting to Facebook. Jesus was never superficial. He was always genuine and totally focused on the person of the moment and that person’s needs. Jesus was the world’s greatest teacher. … I bet he was also the world’s greatest listener.
There is a reason that we give each child and each volunteer a name tag. Unlike Jesus, we need a little help with names. We ask each shopping buddy to get to know the child that they are helping. Learn their name, introduce them to each person along the way at each of the clothing stations. Find out their favorite sport and team, subject in school, TV show, video game, or whatever it takes to make it personal. For those 15 or 20 minutes, be that child’s best friend. That’s what Jesus did. He demands no less of us.
Come to think of it. What we do for these children, ought not we be doing every day, for everyone else? How much better would this world be if we took time to be neighbors to each other?
A friend of mine posted on Facebook not too long ago the following:
When I moved down south I wondered all the time, "why are all these people talking to me!?" If people talked to you in Boston on the subway, you knew they were nuts. It was a social contract---leave me alone and I will leave you alone. But down here people were always chit-chatting you up at the grocery store and I was thinking, what is wrong with these people? Now… I am one of the nutty people.
We southerners are apt to do that, to strike up a casual conversation in the checkout line. But what I’m talking about is Jesus’ example of not just being friendly, but being neighborly, of showing Christ’s love, of truly letting that person in front of you know that you care, that you look them in the eye, and that you are truly listening, not just to their words, but to their heart, and to their needs.
At the closing of our Blessing of the Hands service we recite together in unison the words of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582):
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
A local pastor always uses in his benediction words that go something like this:
“May you see the face of Christ in every person that you meet, and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.”
The mission of Hands of Christ is to bring Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations together to meet the basic needs of children, showing them Christ’s love.
As we go out from here tonight, to the spaghetti supper, to our jobs tomorrow, and to wherever you might serve, not only in the lines at one of our distributions, but wherever you are, even in your own family, ask yourself these questions:
“Am I speeding through this yellow light?
“Should I slow down, stop, and see what God has in store for me at this moment with the person I am with?
“How can I meet the basic needs of this person?
“How can I show them Christ’s love?”
Soli Deo Gloria