Lenten Sermon Series Invites Us to Reach “Beyond Charity”

By Susan Shinn Turner

If you’re asking the question “What is the purpose of my charity?” then you’re asking the wrong question.

Pastor Rhodes poses a different question: “How can I serve in a way that honors Jesus?”

And if you look deeply into the life of Jesus, “you’ll discover that Jesus wasn’t a very good example of how some folks think about charity.”

“Jesus didn’t give handouts to the poor,” Pastor Rhodes says. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt he understood the importance of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Just look at Matthew 25. But his approach went far beyond that. Jesus walked alongside them.”

A five-week Lenten sermon series, “Beyond Charity,” seeks to answer some tough questions about how to live a life like Jesus, especially when it comes to the vulnerable. How do we love the poor? How did Jesus approach the leper? Where does the Gospel enter in?

Pastors Rhodes and Laura will dive deeply into five parables from Matthew that require a shift in thinking: to honor God and love our neighbors, we must live beyond charity.

“It’s really looking very carefully at the life of Jesus and how he treated those on the outskirts of society,” Pastor Rhodes says. “His was a ministry rooted in loving the neighbor, not just helping the neighbor.”

To be sure, providing for immediate needs such as emergency shelter, food, and clothing is still critical, Pastor Rhodes says. “It’s been a significant part of the church’s history. After all, the first hospitals and food banks were established by Christians.”

“But providing food, clothing, and shelter only touches the surface of how Jesus invites us to think about the needs of our neighbors. How do we build community? How do we shift from dependence to dignity? How do we think about mercy and justice from a biblical perspective? How do we genuinely welcome all people around the table? How do we serve in a way that honors Jesus?

A serious task, no doubt. But after all, Pastor Rhodes says, “It’s Lent. Traditionally, Lent is when we look deeply into the life of Jesus. Where does that take us in our daily lives, and how will that help us grow more deeply in our relationships with God and one another?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6.