Since I started back at the congregation following my sabbatical, I have been starting up with a devotional book I have used on and off the last few years – Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen. The reflections thus far have spoken quite deeply to me and I will periodically put up a few pictures tied in with them going forward. Today’s reading about about Meeting God in the Poor. The preceding few days of devotions have focused on finding the areas of our own poverty in our lives – be it physical, spiritual, emotional. But today, Nouwen shifts into what most of us normally think of when we think of poverty – those who as Nouwen says are “destitute…deformed…disabled…broken…helpless…needy” He rightly notes the uncomfortability that many have when working with the poor – for many reasons including not knowing what we can do to truly help. But he goes back to what he was saying in the preceding days that if we can understand our own poverty, we can understand the poverty of others.
I love how he ends his devotion today – “[By avoiding the poor] we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.”
The picture I chose for today is one that I took looking through the bars of the medical wing of Eastern State Penitentiary. During our visit there, I kept thinking about how the majority of those who are in prison today come from impoverished backgrounds. I thought of how the desperation of many lead to acts that land them in prison. The prison showed the stark statistics of how minority populations make up the vast majority of those who are in prison today in the US. The cycle is difficult to break for many. Yet, Jesus calls us to reach out to those in prison, those who are hungry, those who need clothing, those who are sick…