Go in Peace. Remember the Poor.

Yesterday, at the end of our church service, the worship assistant sent us out with “Go in Peace. Remember the Poor.” More commonly, I hear, “Go in Peace. Serve the Lord,” so the poignant statement hit me a little more clearly. Instead of just saying serve the Lord, it gave a way to do so. Ever since yesterday morning, I have been thinking about what this means to me.

During my undergraduate years of study I completed a number of projects and papers on issues surrounding the Middle East and Islamic-Christian relations. The topics fascinated me. I think what caught my interest the most was my own need for peace and my inability to fully digest how we become so at odds with each other when we are continually summoned to peaceful ways. So I dove into the topics to learn more. It was, and is, enlightening. So today, when I think about going in peace, I think about our call to act peaceably to others. Our neighbors with whom we may have disputes, those we agree to disagree with, those who are a different color, religion or race than us, and those who seek to provoke anger or violence. We can respond in peace. My favorite Old Testament passage comes from Isaiah 2:3-5…

3 Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD.”

I love the imagery of nation not taking up sword against nation, disputes being settled and resources being used to produce food instead of weapons. This makes me think about how peace can lead to food; to a decrease in poverty.

“Remember the Poor,” the worship assistant said.

I think it is rather easy to forget the poor when we, ourselves, struggle daily to pay our bills and make ends meet. Sometimes, it is hard to remember the poor when we see the same man with an “out of work” sign standing by the traffic light month after month. It is easy to wonder why he has not gotten some kind of work yet. So this is when I remember the work of ELCA World Hunger. This probably sounds like a marketing plug, but it is true. When I do my best to remember the poor I remember the projects we support around the world, the goats that change lives, the school meal programs we advocate for and the food desert I visited as a World Hunger intern two summers ago. “Poor” is such a general category that encompasses so many life experiences. So often, we think of those in our immediate sight, people on the street corners asking for money, and so often we forget those just beyond our vision. Families like those with a roof over their head but not enough food to go around the table. The little kids I saw walking to school a couple of weeks ago wearing shorts in the snow…those who can only afford winter gloves if they come from the clothing bank…those with beautiful hearts, positive attitudes, undying faiths and empty pocketbooks. Likewise, those with sad hearts, negative attitudes, dying faiths and pocketbooks which stream unendingly.  There are many types of “Poor.”

Who will you remember this Christmas? How will your peaceful call decrease poverty? How can we, as Christians, “Go in Peace. Remember the Poor,” this season?

~Lana Lile