In some post-evangelical conversations there is a distinction being made between the Gospel about Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.Â The latter being the Good News that Jesus, himself, proclaimed in his teachings and that he sent the apostles out to proclaim.Â In the sending of the seventy, for instance, Jesus tells the apostles, â€œâ€¦ say to them, â€˜The Kingdom of God has come near to you.â€™â€ (Luke 10:9 NRSV) Or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, â€œâ€¦ tell them, â€˜Godâ€™s kingdom is right on your doorstep!â€™â€
As Kevin Boyd led the presbytery staff in mid-week prayer and Holy Communion the Wednesday after Katrina hit, he shared with us the response St. Paul had been offering a handful of families stranded in a hotel nearby the church.Â He said they literally started showing up on their doorstep family after family after family.Â A few families from New Orleans grew to over 100 people within days.Â Each one had a similar story.Â They had sought refuge in an inexpensive hotel for a night or two; but their money was quickly running out.Â They needed food; shelter; and many other daily necessities.
Kevin said, â€œWe felt called to do what we could.â€Â They started by paying hotel bills for the stranded families; then they began offering a hot supper each night for those who were displaced.Â Some nights they fed 40; other nights they fed over 100.Â The dinners turned into wonderful times of fellowship.Â The people of St. Paul helped the families by providing prayer, friendship, clothing, Bibles, gas, and personal items.Â They helped them sign up for food stamps, gave them job leads, sat together with them in hospital rooms, and shared all the latest information on hurricane relief as it became available.
On Sunday over 35 of the evacuees from New Orleans came to worship with the people of St. Paul, and just prior to communion they heard one of the guests sing the spiritual, â€œGod Has Been Good to Me.â€ Â Godâ€™s kingdom was right on their doorstep alright.
I think of all the churches in our presbytery that have similar stories to tell.Â And all I hear in my mind is the echoing phrase from The Message â€œGodâ€™s kingdom is right on your doorstep!â€Â One thing is clear to me â€“ our churches have been changed by what they gave and by what they received in answering Godâ€™s call.Â Whether it was a sheltering people in their fellowship hall or providing money for the feeding of the thousands at the Astrodome â€¦ all we have to do to see the awesome majesty of Godâ€™s kingdom is open our eyes â€¦ itâ€™s right here on our doorstep, in our emails, in our connectedness, in our oneness and compassion.
In an email about a week after they began caring for their neighbors in need, Kevin writes, â€œWe began this process by saying, â€˜we canâ€™t!â€™ God answered quietly, â€˜No, but I can!â€™â€ Â He went on to share all of the miraculous ways people of faith came together and provided for these people.Â The result was far greater than anything the people of St. Paul Presbyterian could have hoped for on their own.Â To me, thatâ€™s the essence of the Gospel.Â â€œNo, you canâ€™t, but I can, and I will.â€
My prayer today is that as we continue responding to the needs of those impacted by Katrina, we will all pause and remember â€¦ the kingdom of God is right on our doorstep!
printed in the October 2005 issue of Connections, a publication of the Presbytery of New Covenant