From the Editor

Remember the Poor

If our children seem greedy, where might they have learned that?

At Ash Wednesday worship this year, my eyes were opened to a slight but meaningful revision of the closing liturgical exhortation. Standing at the altar, facing the congregation, the assisting minister said, “Go in peace, remember the poor!”

Normally, of course, we hear the sentence,”Go in peace, serve the Lord!” But, when one thinks about it, the two versions are not in conflict. Still, the final Ash Wednesday exhortation brought into sharp focus for me something middle-class Lutherans (who, one of our readers argues, are preoccupied with “respectability”) don’t always consider.

I’ve long appreciated prayers, offered at the beginning of meals, which include the phrase, “and keep us mindful of those who are less fortunate than are we.” Sometimes, when the prayer ends that way, I find it slightly more difficult to enjoy, with abandon, the feast set before me. That’s as it should be.

Recently one of our local daily newspapers ran a full page of quotes from Minnesota school children. They’d been asked what they would do if they encountered a homeless person by the side of the road. The responses ran a predictable gamut — from “I’d give them some money” to “I don’t help homeless people; they’re scary.” One young teen bragged, “I don’t waste my money on poor people. I save it for the person who deserves it the most — me!” One hopes he didn’t learn that in Lutheran confirmation class.

It is no simple thing helping the poor in effective ways. But Lent calls us to wrestle with the challenge and the opportunity. We’re proud of our two adult daughters, who recently told Kathe and me they often give the “take home” portion of their restaurant meal to a hungry person when they see one on the street. They know the person will actually have food (and not be able to waste a handout of cash). And, they’re able to live out the values they’ve been taught.

But handing over a box of hot restaurant food, laudable an act as that is, does not address the deeper, systemic problems that drive people into poverty. The ELCA’s St. Paul Area Synod has faced up to this reality. Why shouldn’t our other area Lutheran judicatories do likewise?

It’s Lent. The marginalized are everywhere in our midst. Sometimes they are visible, sometimes they are not.

Go in peace. Remember the poor!