The Make or Break It Moment

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There comes a time in the course of our faith life when we find ourselves in a situation and we have to act immediately.  It’s a make or break it moment when we have to apply all that we have been taught, everything we have learned thus far as Christians, and do something.  Or choose not to do something.  My make or break it moment happened last Sunday, which made it all the more emphatic for me. 

I had just finished worship where I preached about Jesus teaching that the Pharisees know all the right things, but they just didn’t act the right way.  They didn’t act like they teach, so he condemns their ways.  With Matthew 13:1-12 fresh in my mind, I left the sanctuary and went into the Social Hall to greet the church members when one of them came up to me and told me that there was a couple in the church looking for food.  Suddenly, I am at the point of having to make a decision.  The Food Pantry, run by my church, is closed on Sundays, and will reopen on Monday morning at 9:00 AM.  Do I break our policy and give them food, running the risk of spreading the word that you can come by and get food even when the pantry is supposed to be closed?  Do I ignore the policy and the possible repercussions and give them food?


(Image courtesy of montgomeryareafoodbank.org)

I would love to tell you that I was able to theologically reflect on this, and come to the conclusion, after carefully considering scripture, tradition, experience, and reason (the infamous Methodist Quadrilateral), that I should give these people food.  But that is just not what happened.  I reacted.  I’m a Christian.  I’m a pastor.  Of course, I would give a hungry person food.  Of course I would give a hungry person food on Sunday, or whatever day, because this is who I am and Christ is my Lord.  I didn’t have that clearly conceptualized either.  Before I knew it, I was headed to the front office, getting out the necessary paperwork from the State, and getting things underway.  At some point on my way up the stairs to the actual pantry, it occurred to me what I might be doing.  Those reservations I listed earlier came into my mind.  I began to question what I was doing and wondering if I was making a mistake.  An then it happened, Christ’s words echoed in my head:

“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food” (Matthew 25:41-42 NRS).

And again:

 “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.  But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’  He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him” (Matthew 12:6-10 NRS).

While I was not curing or healing on the sabbath, I was going to do something that was not supposed to take place, I was going to open the food pantry when it was supposed to be closed.  I confess that I did not take pleasure in doing what was against the rules.  I know that I may have opened a floodgate.  But I could not have turned my back on those scriptures that flooded my mind.  Suddenly, not one, but two scriptures of Christ’s words came to me and I knew that I had to continue.  I had to do what I believed Christ would have done, wanted me to do.  So I gave them food.

I don’t tell you this to pat myself on the back or proclaim my goodness.  I had no intention of telling this to anyone.  I only now see that what I did was about the moment when all my training and my education in Church produced results.  I pray that it yielded fruit for God.  Before I knew what I was doing, I was doing something for God.  Only in the midst of my choice did I think about why I was doing it.  Only later did I conceptualize the full reflection on why I did it.  It was a make it or break it moment.  Either I was going to give those people food, or I wasn’t.  I chose to feed them.  It felt like the right thing to do.  It seemed right by them and by God at that moment.  I had just preached about Christians never getting to retire.  My own words reverberated in my being reminding me that I just told over two hundred people that they had to do what Christ says.  I recounted how Christ condemned the Pharisees for refusing to do what they tell others to do, so I acted.  One day, you will have that moment and all that you know about God, Jesus, and Christianity will come to bear on your decision.  It may be made in the flash of a second and you might react before you know why.  Ask yourself, are you prepared?  Both to act and for the consequences?

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