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Friday, February 15, 2008

A Common Cupboard Foundational Principle - "Invisibility"

The second foundational principle of the Common Cupboard is "invisibility". It is our desire that the cupboard would be so in the background that those we serve never see it. What they see instead is the love of God displayed to them in the person who is serving.

In our orientation I usually say "the cupboard is merely a place we store the food that we have gathered together". It is not really a food ministry to the poor. It is a "common cupboard", a pooled resource available to followers of Jesus and the local church to serve people in need. As such we equip churches and individual lovers of Jesus to reach out and so we facilitate the expansion of God's purpose and mission in this community.

I don't remember where I read it, but recently I read a quote that went something like this. "It is amazing what God can do through a person who does not care who gets credit for it!" Not only does Common Cupboard not care who gets the credit, we do not want the credit. All we want is for local churches, ministries, and other lovers of Jesus to use the cupboard to serve those in need. We want God to get the credit as his cherished children follows the example of Jesus and serves the poor whom Jesus loves.

When I say that the cupboard is to be invisible, I mean it. Last month a new couple started delivering food to several homes. They had not yet been through the orientation. They asked me what organization were they delivering for. I am sure they were asking me if they should say Common Heart or Common Cupboard, or whatever. I said the name of their local church in response to their question. They seemed a little shocked. I imagine that they were thinking, "I didn't know that our church ran this." But if anyone should get the exposure for good deeds done in the name of Jesus, it is the local church.

This principle of invisibility flows from my strong belief in the body of Christ displayed in gatherings of Jesus followers known as a local church. As individual members of his body, the church, reach out and meets a need, serves a person, displays patient listening, gives an encouraging word, the world will see Jesus. It is this body, the church, that brings today what the Bible teaches. Again, there is a saying, "we are the only Bible this world will read.."
Recently I heard a song from the worship album, Songs for a Revolution of Hope that echos a prayer of St. Teresa of Avilla, which expresses this outworking of the mystery of the Body of Christ very well.
Christ has no body here but ours,
No hands or feet here on earth but ours,
Ours are the eyes here through which he looks,
On this world, With Kindness.
Ours are the hands through which he works,
Ours are the feet on which he moves,
Our are the voices through which he speaks,
To this world, With Kindness.
Through our touch, our smile, our listening ear,
Embodied in us, Jesus is living here
Let us go now, filled with his Spirit,
Into the world with kindness.
In addition this principle of invisibility stems from another of my strongly held convictions. God’s love is best displayed through people serving people, not through church programs, or para-church ministries, or charitable institutions, or non-profit organizations, or government bureaucracies. It is people helping people that allows God's love to have a transformative effect on both the one being served and the one serving. The Cupboard's invisibility helps remind us that it is not the Cupboard, but us who are serving, giving, reaching out to those in need!

Keep serving. It is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance! Next month I will share more on my thoughts on the third foundational principle of Common Cupboard, "Demonstrating God’s Love."

You can read the first of the three pricniples by clicking on "Common Cupboard: A Pooled Resource."

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