Today I had the privilege of attending the Rotary and Salvation Army Windsor Advisory Board’s luncheon to kick-off the annual Salvation Army Kettle Campaign. This annual event is an opportunity to get supporters of the annual effort to raise money for the countless people who are assisted each year by the Salvation Army’s annual appeal. It was a delightful lunch at the Coboto Club. The music of the Salvation Army Jubilee Brass Ensemble filled the room and created a sense of anticipation of the possibilities of this campaign. Hope was in the air!

The uniformed officers and soldiers served as a reminder of the Salvation Army and the work that they do each and every year, not just at Christmas but day by day. That work really revolves around providing hope.  Victor Hugo wrote: “Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man.” I have in my ministry encountered those who seem to have no hope written on their brow. In their lives and their situation they seem hopeless. There are those who have lost even hope. Thankfully there are ministries at work that restore hope. There are those, and the Salvation Army is among the list, who see hope on every brow. Part of the work of living the covenant that we have made with God is the having the courage to offer hope along with bread, along a drink, along a visit. Methodist Minister and columnist Charles Allen wrote, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you’re slamming the door in the face of God.” There is no person who is hopeless.

We need to remember who we are called to serve. On the Feast of Christ the King this past Sunday we the story of Sheep and Goats as outlined in Matthew 25.

As found in the paraphrase –The Message….

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

 Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

 Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’ He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’ Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.

Today at our luncheon we were reminded by Jesus, who is our King, where he lives and how we can serve him. We heard three stories of hope that were very touching and served to remind us that Jesus is out there today and is still looking to be fed, clothed and visited. Patricia’s story of hope included being cared for as a six-year-old when her family lost a home to fire. Her story also related how the Salvation Army was able to help her later in life when Windsor’s economy meant job loss and a need for assistance. Gail’s touching story of being a cancer survivor who move to Windsor for a new start also spoke to the ways in which the Salvation Army provides a loving hand to Jesus. Gail was able to eat, and work, and volunteer and have dignity because of the Salvation Army and its willingness to take offer a hand to her in her brokenness. Paul’s story is all too common. A Recovering alcoholic, Paul also struggles with mental illness. His life has been saved by the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light. He too recounted how the SA has been a constant in his battle for sobriety and for wellness. In each case the speakers offered an intimate vignette into what serving Jesus in the broken looks like.

The Rotarians and their motto or ‘service before self,’ also are working to partner with the S.A. to see to it that our community is made better by making people’s lives better. I was moved by their four-fold way:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

It strikes me that most of the religions of the world are all striving to advance these tenants. I offer my thanks to the Rotarians for the good work that they do in this community. It was great to be in the company of Windsor’s Rotarians today and see the level of support and enthusiasm that they have for the S.A. Kettle Campaign.

At some point in the next few weeks I will take my turn on the S.A. Kettle. If you would like to volunteer some time ringing a bell and collecting for the many valuable ministries of hope that the campaign supports please be in touch. We can have a St. Mark’s by-the-Lake day at the local grocery store or liquor store, or mall – It would be great to have a kettle tended all day by people of God from our church.

Thank you to the people of Eastwood Citadel for bringing me along today. We are always happy to further our relationship with the Eastwood Corps. Our partnership with the Neighbourhood Services Program there has helped many mothers over the past three years. Let us work to find new ways to partner that will allow us to continue to find Jesus in the weak and in the vulnerable and serve Him with awe, with love and with reverence.