Larry, Dylan, Ivan, Katie, Alex, Christopher, Amanda, Nicholas & What’s-his-name, etc.

The last several months two different groups of college students and grads have been faithfully serving with us on Thursday nights in Phila. It is thrilling for me to see this, but I have a hard time remembering all the names. Michael met me through comeandseeicons.com, then recruited his girlfriend, his brothers, his brother’s girlfriend and some others to help out. They are from St. Stephen’s OCA Cathedral in Northeast Phila. and St. Mark’s Orthodox Church, Wrightstown.
Larry came out with some folks from St. John Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church, center city Phila., and then recruited his roommate and members of the U. Penn. Orthodox Christian Fellowship to join us.

The first time that the OCF came out, they were wondering if they were really helpful, since there were not enough specific serving jobs to go around. They were greatly helpful! I stood with four of them on the other side of the line and it made for order and calm in a rather large crowd.

Also, just the fact that they make the effort to come down and show their smiling faces and share warm greetings to these guys and gals is such a blessing to the people we serve. It is really encouraging to me that these young people understand this and keep coming back. God bless you! And God bless your parents and instructors who set you on the right path!

Surprised by Grace

On the last two Sundays the gospel readings were two of my favorites. There was Last Judgment Sunday with the Gospel reading from Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. We should all be familiar with the passage. If you are not, dust off your Bible and look it up. Then it was Forgiveness Sunday with Matthew 6:14-21 about laying up treasure in heaven.

What strikes me every time I read or ponder Matthew 25 is that everyone is surprised. The sheep are surprised, because they do not remember doing anything for Christ. The goats are surprised because they don’t remember ignoring Christ.

If I feed the hungry in order to feed the least of Christ’s brethren and thus assure myself of being a sheep; the only way I could be surprised at the Last Judgment would be to discover myself to be a goat. And that is what I would be; for I would have “presumed against the grace of God” thinking I could cover my sins by my own works and somehow buy salvation.

Now it is clear that God wants us to serve the poor, the infirm, the disenfranchised and those in prison. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27) It is equally clear that if we do these things in order to receive something in return we are missing the point.

Luke 17:10: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
Why does God want us to care for the poor?

God could directly distribute to everyone exactly what they needed each day. He did that with the manna in the wilderness for a nation of about two million people for 40 years. If anyone gathered more than they needed it wouldn’t keep. If anyone gathered less than they needed, God multiplied it. But how did that work out for the growth and maturity of the Israelites? You would think they would have great faith after seeing a miracle every day for 40 years.

No. They grumbled and complained that it was always the same miracle. They wanted meat. God sent so much quail their way that they had so much meat they were sick of it and complained about that. Quail for 2,000,000 for two weeks in the Sinai Desert. That’s some miracle! The point of my recounting this is that they apparently did not grow very much from this experience.
God still provides enough every day for everyone’s needs. He has entrusted us with the work of distributing it. This is where faith, hope and love come in. We need to have faith that God has actually provided enough for everyone today. We need to have hope (which is a confidence of future events) that God will do the same tomorrow and for all of our tomorrows. Then we need to act in love to share God’s provision according to the mercy that we have received.

This calls for growth in godliness. God has arranged things so that we have opportunity to become more like Him. Caring for the poor and disadvantaged changes us for the better, if we learn to do it in love.

When I started to serve on the street, I did so out of a sense of social justice, wanting to help the poor, urban churches who had been strapped with overwhelming tasks with dwindling resources, thanks to white flight. That sort of motivation does not sustain a person. I have witnessed many an angry young man burn out or even become spiritually shipwrecked.
Thankfully there were older folks and prison inmates praying for me daily. Gradually, I was surprised by grace.

Sometimes I would just want to stay home. I would make myself go out of shame for not having a real good reason to stay home. Every time I would end the night feeling so blessed, because I had made a new friend or had seen God provide in a special way. Occasionally I am still tempted not to go on a Thursday night, but I have more than 18 years of memories of how my life would be so much poorer were it not for the encounters I had on the nights I almost skipped.

So my motivation has grown from that of an angry young man feeling guilty about growing up in the upper middle class; to shame at not continuing something I started; to knowing my week and my life would be less interesting if I didn’t go; and occasionally I feel like I may actually love some of these people. I think this is what growth feels like.

How do we send treasure to heaven? Money doesn’t go to heaven, but people do. Jesus is telling us to use our treasure to serve people by praying, fasting, forgiving and giving alms. Again we are called to growth. Whether our treasure be time or possessions, whatever we spend it on, our hearts follow it.

Jesus is telling us to stop using people to acquire possessions and to start using our possessions to serve people.

Anyone is welcome to join us in serving the poor on the streets of Philadelphia. Perhaps it is a place for you to grow. We don’t care why you try it. We just hope that along the way, you will make some new friends and maybe even be surprised by grace.

Pray for Peace

Last night two of the men we serve got into a fight. Thankfully this is not a regular occurrence. In the years that I have been doing this, I believe this is only the fourth violent incident that required bandages. This time it could have been worse, except a number of guys restrained them; then several of us stood between them until one of them left.

I won’t go into more detail other than to tell you that the guy who hadn’t been injured called the police to report the other guy, then came back. The police showed up in numbers. The sergeant who took the lead was a real peacemaker. He stayed there until the two men calmed down and could talk civilly to each other.

Please pray for peace and safety for all of us on Thursday nights.

Octagon Research Solutions Delivers the Goods

Once again the Octagon Research Solutions employees came together as a team to help poor people in Philadelphia. Everybody brought in something. Together they gathered boxes and boxes of soup ingredients: canned vegetables and broth, pasta, beans, etc. This is on top of their once a month sandwich making lunch break on the last Thursday of each month.

These activities set a good example of team building that positively impacts the wider community. The guys in Phila. thank you and wish you God’s best!

Upper Perk Still Involved

We moved out of the Upper Perkiomen valley in May, but folks there are still involved. Last Thanksgiving, Peace Mennonite Church of East Greenville gathered a truck load of coats, blankets and socks to give away.

At Christmas, one of the ladies’ circles at St. Philip Neri R.C. Church in Pennsburg included the homeless in their cookie exchange, giving us hundreds of homemade cookies and some new socks to give away.

This week, the CCD classes at St. Philip Neri made power packs again and gathered two truckloads of blankets, coats and clothing to give away. This time they didn’t just send it. Three members went down to center city, helped us serve the meal, then gave away what they brought.
Back in 1991, it was the CCD at St. Philip Neri that approached me with the idea of power packs and made hundreds for us to give away. So it is good to see them getting involved again.

Barn Update

Thank God for a mild winter. February 3, Fr. Noah Bushelli & Nicholas Buck helped me finish framing and insulating the ceiling the right way. So it actually holds a little bit of heat. Damien Kovalenko helped by starting demolition on the first floor in preparation for replacing the second floor framing & decking.

There’s lots more fun stuff to do: demolition, framing, decking, insulation, wiring, drywall, stair construction, painting. You don’t need to be an expert to help. I have found that it is much more fun to work on somebody else’s hopelessly overwhelming project than my own. Don’t wait for a special invitation. We’re flexible.

For those who may not know, the barn is to be home to “Come and See” Icons, Books & Art, as well as to The King’s Jubilee. The flexibility of having my own business allows me to be able to coordinate this ministry and make the “best soup on the parkway.”

The Appeal

We can only do what we do, because there are many others who share the resources God has given them with us. Donations are gladly and gratefully received.

In addition to checks and cash, personal size shampoos, soaps & lotions are always welcome, as well as men’s clothing in season.

Checks can be mailed to:

The King’s Jubilee
27 N. Front St.
Souderton, PA 18964-1148

Our phone is: 267-497-0267
email: TKJ@shoutforjoy.net

Peace,

Cranford Joseph Coulter