The Shepherd of Hermas & Texas

I hate it when I work out a blog post in my mind while I am in the haze of sleep and then forget it after I go back to sleep. I usually have a pad and pen on my nightstand for writing down things that relate to Tapestry’s messages, but I didn’t do it with this idea and now I can’t remember what I was thinking. I do remember that at the time I thought “oh, I like the way that works together” and that it was dealing with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement that Texas will no longer accept resettlement of new refugees. I can’t remember what it was but let’s just assume that it was one of the more brilliant things that I have ever written or said, and leave it at that.

Since I can’t remember what I was going to write about the Texas governor’s response to more refugees I’ll post a section from the Shepherd of Hermas dealing with helping the poor.

You may have never heard of the Shepherd of Hermas. It is devotional writing from the 1st century, very early in the history of the church. It isn’t scripture but it is Christians figuring out how to live out their transformation from the Lord and what we are taught in scripture. It is some of the best devotional writing that the church has ever produced. The writing in the Shepherd has continued to guide people in the church in how to walk as followers of Christ because it has consistently given insight into what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This portion is the second similitude of the third book of the Shepherd:

“As I was walking in the field, and observing an elm and vine, and determining in my own mind respecting them and their fruits, the Shepherd appears to me, and says, What is it that you are thinking about the elm and vine? I am considering, I reply, that they become each other exceedingly well. These two trees, he continues, are intended as an example for the servants of God. I would like to know, said I, the example which these trees you say, are intended to teach. Do you see, he says, the elm and the vine? I see them sir, I replied. This vine, he continued, produces fruit, and the elm is an unfruitful tree; but unless the vine be trained upon the elm, it cannot bear much fruit when extended at length upon the ground; and the fruit which it does bear is rotten, because the plant is not suspended upon the elm. When, therefore, the vine is cast upon the elm, it yields fruit both from itself and from the elm. You see, moreover, that the elm also produces much fruit, not less than the vine, but even more; because, he continued, the vine, when suspended upon the elm, yields much fruit, and good; but when thrown upon the ground, what it produces is small and rotten. This similitude, therefore, is for the servants of God — for the poor man and for the rich. How so, sir? said I; explain the matter to me. Listen, he said: The rich man has much wealth, but is poor in matters relating to the Lord, because he is distracted about his riches; and he offers very few confessions and intercessions to the Lord, and those which he does offer are small and weak, and have no power above. But when the rich man refreshes the poor, and assists him in his necessities, believing that what he does to the poor man will be able to find its reward with God — because the poor man is rich in intercession and confession, and his intercession has great power with God — then the rich man helps the poor in all things without hesitation; and the poor man, being helped by the rich, intercedes for him, giving thanks to God for him who bestows gifts upon him. And he still continues to interest himself zealously for the poor man, that his wants may be constantly supplied. For he knows that the intercession of the poor man is acceptable and influential with God. Both, accordingly, accomplish their work. The poor man makes intercession; a work in which he is rich, which he received from the Lord, and with which he recompenses the master who helps him. And the rich man, in like manner, unhesitatingly bestows upon the poor man the riches which he received from the Lord. And this is a great work, and acceptable before God, because he understands the object of his wealth, and has given to the poor of the gifts of the Lord, and rightly discharged his service to Him. Among men, however, the elm appears not to produce fruit, and they do not know nor understand that if a drought come, the elm, which contains water, nourishes the vine; and the vine, having an unfailing supply of water, yields double fruit both for itself and for the elm. So also poor men interceding with the Lord on behalf of the rich, increase their riches; and the rich, again, aiding the poor in their necessities, satisfy their souls. Both, therefore, are partners in the righteous work. He who does these things shall not be deserted by God, but shall be enrolled in the books of the living. Blessed are they who have riches, and who understand that they are from the Lord. [For they who are of that mind will be able to do some good. ] “

The reason I quote this text is because I believe far too often we who are followers of Christ (I’m not speaking for those here who aren’t) view people who are struggling as burdens that interrupt our lives rather than opportunities for us to extend and to personally experience the grace of God through these individuals. I believe this is why the author of the letter to the Hebrews (13:2) records, “to [not forget to] show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

If you were raised in a tradition that holds to sacramental theology then you were a part of a tradition with the belief that there are certain events and elements are means of God extending/communicating His grace (yes sacramental friends I know it is more than that). I have some serious problems with sacramental theology (right Conor😁) but if I did believe scripture taught that there were visible means of extending grace of His invisible act of grace (outside of the crucifixion and resurrection) it would be through those in need, the weak, and poor. When we help our brothers and sisters in need we minister tp the hidden Christ and there we find Him in grace.

The refugees who are coming to us out of fear of what will happen to them in their home countries (because that is what is happening here – refugees aren’t people trying to steal jobs, but people fleeing their homeland to protect themselves and their families) are opportunities for us to show and experience the grace of God. Instead we often respond with “I can’t help anymore” (which often just means “I don’t want to”) and turn our back on grace.

Knowing that it could be Jesus standing at our door should guide a Christian’s response to not only this situation but every situation. The Lord stands at the door and is knocking. He is hungry and needs safety. Do we open the door or say “we’ve done more than our fair share Lord”?

Grace stands at our doors. What will we do? What will I do?