The great English clergyman Charles Kingsley said:
“Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work.”
Are my tools ready?
Are your tools ready?
What does it mean to be ready?
And what work is waiting for us?
The overwhelming inclination for many of us is to spend energy and time explaining why we are not adequate to do what God needs done. We seem to be inclined to take the position of Jeremiah:
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak,
for I am only a boy."
But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD."
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah 1:4-10
Like Jeremiah we respond with cries of inadequacy. But God reminds Jeremiah that he was known to God from the very beginning and that he does indeed have all the tools necessary to do God’s work. What is more God reminds Jeremiah that he will not be alone on the journey. “I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” God has known us since before we were formed in our mother’s wombs. God has given us tools to have ready to do God’s bidding. God has reminded us that when we feel threatened or insecure, we will be delivered.
Last week I had the opportunity to see a people of faith who have taken the idea of having their tools ready to heart and have been ready to receive all of what God sends their way. Don Meloche and Louis Gouin gave Catherinanne and me a tour of the main location on Chilver Rd in Windsor. It was tremendous experience to be introduced to the staff and volunteers who work to make better lives for people who live in high areas of need.
There are a number of things to note:
1. St. Vincent de Paul takes all items that you might like to donate from your home. They sort these items and are able to place the best of items in their resale stores and are also able to bale and sell the more well-worn items. Shoes are also either resold or boxed and sold. The poorest quality clothing items are made into rags and sold. All of the this to raise funds to carry out the mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
2. The Society recycles. Every electrical appliance is tested to make sure if it works. If it does not work and can be repaired, they repair it. If they cannot repair it, they strip the valuable metals from it for recycling.
3. The Society has a HOST of volunteers to assist the paid staff in repairing, sorting, picking up, delivering, etc. Dedicated and faith filled people work hard daily using the tools that God has given to them to do what they can to advance God’s work through the Society.
4. The resale store on Chilver Rd is a GREAT PLACE to shop. The store as gently used and new items for sale. Clothing, furniture and household appliances can all be found in this well organized store full of diverse items.
At our most recent Parish Leadership Team meeting we agreed to take a St. Vincent de Paul bin wherein we can collect clothing and smaller items to donate to the society. The truck will be by every week for pick up. We are excited to partner with SSVP and to do what we can to make certain that our tools are ready and waiting to do God’s work. We look to this organization to help us find ways that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in areas of need.
I picked up a couple of GREAT shirts at the store on Chilver. They are brand new. In a world that consumes at an unbelievable rate, it feels right to purchase something for less money that still has lots of value. If you have opportunity you should take a look in there as well. We help others, we help the environment with less consumption, and we help God by doing all of that.
On this feast of St. Bartholomew (August 24) in 1997 I was reminded by a bishop that “At all times, my life and teaching are to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself." This is what it means to live a diaconal ministry. Later in that same liturgy the bishop ordained me a deacon and so began my ordained ministry. There have been times when I have remembered well that I must model serving the helpless. There are other times when I have needed others to model to me and to others what serving the helpless looks like. I think that one of the ways of effectivley being a deacon in the church is really about having the tools ready for service to the helpless. This deacon (I did not cease to be deacon when I became priest) is grateful for the ways in whcih others have shown how to be ready for service. In the SSVP I see a great example of serving with the tools that God has given. I pray that I may continue to be inspired by those who love God so much that they would seek to find God in the helpless.
Collect for St. Bartholomew:
Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.