Beyond Severe Affliction

“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia. For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the privilege of taking part in the relief of the saints…” II Corinthians 8:1-4a

The pandemic that we are experiencing, and the personal limitations and restrictions that we are coping with on a day-to-day basis, are for some an annoying inconvenience; for others, an economic catastrophe. It is, as Paul writes in the passage above, a severe test of affliction. For the underground church in Macedonia and Corinth during the first century, it was an opportunity to turn from their own problems and to focus their prayers and resources to help their brothers and sisters living in Jerusalem.

I was reminded of this when I read a brief article in the New York Times last Tuesday (May 12), entitled “Irish Donors Return an Old Favor.” It was an article about a charity in Ireland that has collected money for two Native American tribes suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over three million dollars has been raised to help supply water, food, and health supplies to the Navajo and Hopi Nations.

Why this from Ireland? The article notes that 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation in America sent $170 to starving Irish families in County Cork during the potato famine. The irony of this gift is that it was sent during “a severe test of affliction,” when the United States government had forcibly relocated many tribes in a march across thousands of miles, known as the Trail of Tears. Now, the Irish have remembered that extraordinary kindness, and they want their Choctaw brothers and sister to know that they have not been forgotten.

Perhaps you might remember old friends from the past; people who once befriended you in some way, not because they had to, but because of compassion. It may be that in these days of isolation they feel alone and forgotten, abandoned in a severe test of affliction. It is an opportunity to share a bit of joy out of the abundance of our resources according to our means. Love is never measured in decimal points.

Rev. Dr. David Kaiser-Cross
Executive Minister

For those two or three people that God’s spirit brings to mind and heart:
Gracious Lord, I remember the kindness and friendship that helped me on the way so long ago. Fill me with gratitude and joy that I might return such kindness and friendship wherever it becomes possible.