Don’t Walk By is an annual winter outreach to our neighbors surviving on the street. The outreach encourages New Yorkers to put into practice the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Over the past decade, Don’t Walk By volunteers have canvassed the streets of Manhattan, met over 10,000 individuals and invited them back to a host site. There, guests of the NYC Rescue Alliance were offered a hot meal, clothing, basic medical care, and connection to ongoing support.
This year, All Angels’ Community Ministries lead the overnight hospitality task force in collaboration with the NYC Rescue Mission. On February 2nd and 9th, All Angels’ opened its doors for shelter for over 30 men and women brought to us through Don’t Walk By. A handful of those guests still come to us for Sunday shelter, church services, and/or our Pathways drop-in program.
“Ever walk by a homeless person and wonder to yourself, ‘what can I do to help?’ Well, at All Angels’ we’re constantly thinking of ways to alleviate the effects of homelessness, and in February we participated as host to shelter as many in need as we could as part of the Don’t Walk By initiative. I was one of the hosts for those evenings, and I’m richer for it.
As someone who is still dealing with the trauma of being homeless, I often wondered what the purpose of my life is or will be, and that evening I felt that I just might be finding the answer to this question.
As we set up our shelter, I wanted to create a welcoming, warm, relaxing environment for our guests. That included lighting, aroma therapy, food and drink, a warm bed and shower, and even a movie. We were also able to offer clothes and such from our donation bins. While that was half the mission, the most important component to me is the human one. Greeting my guests, having small talk with them, and sharing our experiences was the most gratifying aspect and I have found a real knack for this. I strongly believe in greeting someone with a smile, handshake, and looking into their eyes–barriers crumble. Our guests deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.
The next morning there was a light breakfast and conversation. I was blown away by my guests. They were gracious and wanted me to know how much they loved their stay actually stating it was the best shelter they ever stayed in and asking when they could return. Seeing them so happy and rested–maybe even walking a little taller–filled my heart. I think this is where God wants me, so, ironically, I came in wanting to give to those in need and instead received more from them then I could ever give.
To my guest for those two nights, thank you for giving me direction, value, and purpose. To the NYC Rescue Alliance, my fellow angels at All Angels’, our clergy, management, volunteers, and support staff… keep doing God’s work. Amazing!
To all who read this, a challenge of sorts: starting ASAP, smile and see God’s love flourish. Praise God and God’s Kingdom awaits.”
CM participant and part-time All Angels’ Support Staff team member
I’ve taught on the subject of stewardship a few times in Sunday School and I’ll address the same 3 main questions here as I do there, just more personally and with slightly more grown-up language:
Are we talking about boats today?
Why do we give?
What does God do with what we give?
Not quite Noah’s Ark
“No, we’re not talking about boats today…”
“…but we’re going to talk about a chance you have to act like a sea captain.”
Put on your captain’s hat because you’re in charge of the S.S. Piggy Bank! We each have a ship filled with our assets that we steer into different ports, making drop-offs as we see fit. God has entrusted us with the resources we’ve been given and it’s up to us to judiciously divert it to places where it can continue to further God’s kingdom.
Now this metaphor clearly sprung from my work with the kids, but I’ve actually come to really like it because it importantly emphasizes that we are a conduit for our resources and not the final destination. God’s blessings are as much a responsibility as they are a gift, and our call is to be prayerful and discerning in how we spend them. Viewing our assets as things to be distributed not only supports that practice, but also cultivates a spirit of generosity and guards our hearts against becoming reliant on earthly things. That doesn’t mean I don’t save for the future, but it does mean that I consistently try to orient my heart towards identifying where I can provide relief and expansion for others.
God Loves a Cheerful Giver
But why do we give in the first place? For me, giving starts from a place of recognizing what I have. One of my most important spiritual practices has been nurturing a consistent deliberate appreciation for the blessings big and small in my life. Particularly for a natural-born worrier like myself, it’s been a vital way that I recognize God’s sovereignty and acknowledge that my trust is ultimately in His plan and provision. That practice expands my capacity to share from a place of freedom and giving can then become a form of worship and praise. From there, I can commit that with those blessings I will try to bless others.
Because ultimately, what is our call on this earth, but to bring about God’s kingdom? We are a part of a community of Christians that has spanned generations and millennia, all of whom have been tasked with reflecting the face of God to others so that they may more deeply know Him. I’ve been deeply enriched by others doing that exact thing and my aim is to pay it forward. Giving is one of the ways we put our faith into action and depending on where we are sending our money, we are supporting the continuing growth and flourishing of God’s kingdom and the larger story at work on this earth.
I’ll be the first to admit that every time I crack open my checkbook or look at the annual pledge card, there’s still an instinctual Gollum-like grip on my heart saying “Are you sure about that?” But my giving-related regrets have never been that I gave too much. And I’m teaching myself to use those moments of hesitation as a reminder to pray blessings on what that giving will become…
Five Loaves and Two Fishies
…because what does God do with what we give? He takes our 2 copper coins and transforms it vastly beyond its apparent means. He takes everyday things and makes them holy, multiplying what we put forth.
The donations to the kitchen capital campaign will become thousands of meals and those meals in turn will be thousands of opportunities for our brothers and sisters to experience a God that loves them. A retreat scholarship becomes a chance for the hard work of community integration to take place and the feeding of our relational souls. A meal to new parents creates just a little more capacity for presence to the family.
And $10’s worth of popsicle sticks and paper cups can become:
At first, you might squint and perhaps see a couple of dioramas of our church building, but in the 20 minutes it took to design and assemble them, I saw our kids challenged to see Jesus in each other and to love one another even when it’s hard. I heard them delve into understanding what makes a church a church (hint: it’s not the cross on the front door!). And I know another link was added to the bonds of community that will support their faith walk for years to come.
None of these things necessarily start out as something flashy; more often than not they’re rather mundane things. But our imaginations and limited understanding can put a harness on what we think is possible. Giving is a route through which I can recognize and honor what God can do through His own work and other people that I cannot. In a way, it’s its own small act of faith, entrusting both that God will make sure I stay afloat, but also that He will see to it that my giving is transformed into something beyond what I could ever imagine or do. Recognizing that where my limits end, God’s works can transcend.
Finally, while this post is about financial stewardship, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you could substitute the concept of money here with your talents, time, hospitality, and presence and it’d still be just as true. What better way to be the face of the living God on this earth than to serve in a ministry, share a meal, or be a comforting ear to someone?
— Pam Wong
Pam Wong is an All Angels’ parishioner, JH youth group leader, and host to the Brooklyn HC.
All Angels’ welcomed a new Youth Ministry Coordinator in August : Jack Ricci. So that everyone in the All Angels’ community might get a more personal glimpse of Jack, as everyone on staff has been so grateful to have had, we decided to come up with five questions that would reveal a bit more of who the real “behind the scenes,” and in his personal life.
1. What really matters to you more than anything else?
Jack: More than anything else, I want everyone, including myself, to believe that God loves them and will love them through eternity, and that they act that out in the world.
2. If you had the choice to do one thing on your day off, what would it be?
Jack: Spend the whole day with my fiancé Kate – doesn’t matter where we go!
3. What brings you joy?
Jack: Seeing the kingdom break through into our world through beauty, kindness, redemption, and trust. I also like when the Yankees win.
4. What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
Jack: I love 90’s club music. It’s heavily motivating and it’s great bike riding music.
5. What are you most excited about working at All Angels’?
Jack: Getting the chance to make an impact on the hearts of our youth, and to equip them to be their fullest selves for Christ.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass.
The title caught my eye. I clicked to open the daily devotional with hopes that the words
would resolve my angst about our upcoming cross country move. Moving to me is usually an adventure. New town. New Streets. New Friends. New fun things to do. But not this time. This time, we are moving to the familiar, a place I know well and a place that knows me. I have not yet figured out why that doesn’t bring me comfort.
Unfortunately, the written advice didn’t do much for my heart. While well-meaning and helpful for many, I found this piece full of Christian platitudes and Church-speak that means little in the midst of grief, fear, and anxiety. I can tell you all the reasons why we should move and I can tell you how we can see the hand of God opening the doors of this move, but I’m just not ready to leave my NYC life.
While the comfort did not come in the “advice” of the blog, it did come in the title: Be where your feet are. “That’s right, Beverly. You don’t have to be in Houston, Texas yet. You’ve still got months left in NYC and a lot of life in the midst of those months. Be where your feet are NOW, and then, when it’s time, plant your feet in Houston.”
As I continued to mull this over, three Scripture stories came to mind.
The first one is found in Genesis 19 It’s the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the salvation of Lot and his family. Scripture says that the land was covered in darkness, that it was a time when each person did what was right in their own eyes, following the desires of the their flesh and using people for their own gain and pleasure. Lot, a man of God, lived in the midst of this with his wife and two daughters. Angels came instructing them to flee, providing them a way out before God destroyed the city. Take a moment to read the passage below.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords,[b] please! 19 Your[c] servant has found favor in your[d] eyes, and you[e] have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.[f])
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
I see so much goodness from the Lord. He not only sought salvation for Lot and his family, but he even allowed Lot to negotiate where he would dwell next. “Please Lord, not there! We won’t survive in the mountains. We need a something a little closer.” And then, just as we are headed toward a happy ending for Lot and his family, we find those haunting words, “But Lot’s wife looked back.”
In the midst of their family’s salvation, Lot’s wife looks back. She dies, loses her life, wishing she could be somewhere her feet were not.
The second story is found in Acts 5. This is the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who sold a piece of property. Rather than giving all the proceeds to the church for distribution to those in need, they held back part of the money for themselves, a clear violation of what God asked of them. While Scripture doesn’t tell us why they tucked some away, I wonder if they kept some back to make sure they had enough for the future. Maybe they were planners and living without a plan for the future was too much.
Ananias and Sapphira die, looking forward to somewhere their feet were not.
And then there is Jesus, who unlike Lot’s wife and Ananias and Sapphira, knew how to be where his feet were. In the midst of feeding the 5000, Jesus took time to teach the disciples important lessons about faith and provision. He could feed the masses and still work in an object lesson for his trainees. The hillside was full of hungry people and yet Jesus managed to be aware of who was sharing the grass next to his own sandals.
How about the woman with the issue of blood? Jesus is walking through crowded streets, pushed and shoved and jostled like commuters trying to exit the subway at ALL Times Square trains at ALL times of the day! And yet, he is aware of the tiniest touch of a desperate woman hoping for miracle.
Finally, there is Jesus on the cross. In the midst of the pain of the cross, knowing that his human death is imminent, he has the divine foresight to care for the future of his mother.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
Here’s where these stories collide for me:
There is coming a day when I will need to quit looking back longingly at NYC. But until then, I need to be where my feet are, in the middle of America’s most exciting city, rubbing elbows with humans from every nation in the world, listening to the music of trains, sirens, and the laughter of children, and waking up every morning to the smell of fried eggs, coffee, a party that went too long, and the brokenness of my homeless friend down the street.
And because of Christ, I must try to not worry about where my feet will be by the end of September. He’s going to provide green pasture and still waters and new sounds and sights and even new smells in my new town, in my new grass. “Until then, Beverly, be where your feet are. And then, when it’s time, move your feet to new pasture.”
Be where your feet are. That’s where we find rest, peace, comfort, joy, and safe pasture. Amen.
If you want one more story that really brings all this together, ask me about the squirrels at Marcus Garvey park!
Attending a new church is hard. It just is – no matter the reason. It is especially hard if you are an extroverted introvert. What that means is that if I am by myself in a room full of people I do not know, I will talk to as many people as I can and start making new friends because what else am I going to do? But if I know one other person, I will only talk to them and not talk to new people. So going to a new church with my husband (who is an introverted introvert) meant we didn’t really talk to anyone. And since we started going to church in the summer, it also meant that house churches (or at least the ones we were looking at) weren’t meeting.
So after attending AAC for three Sundays my husband and I signed up for the retreat, and by “my husband and I” I mean I told him if he wanted this to be our church home, we had to go to events where we would meet people and really commit, and he agreed (which is a big deal. Remember the introverted introvert part? I’m not exaggerating that.)
I was nervous about going to this big event, but excited to meet new people. I mean coffee hour at churches is terrifying for me, and here we were, going to a weekend long retreat with a bunch of strangers. And you know what? We did meet many nice and awesome people from both services. It was so great to see the whole church together.
It was more than just a meet-and-greet church social. I have always struggled with being close with my family. I just never understood how I really fit in with them or why I was the way I am when they are the way they are. Then we had to do an exercise where we had to create a genogram of our family. A genogram is basically a super detailed family tree (this is an oversimplification. If you want more, see my husband. He took a class on them.) As I was filling out the genogram, I started noticing patterns and seeing my place in the family. It all started making sense. And I took my quiet time, in the calm of nature, to really pray about it. After the retreat, I started opening myself up to my family more, and I started feeling more a part of them.
This allowed me to open myself up more to my church family. We are part of an awesome house church (which I highly recommend) and volunteer with the church sound team (always looking for new members!)
In short, I would recommend the retreat to everyone. It was really a wonderful experience (and I hope to meet you there!)
The ideal Bible translation would be accurate to the original language, faithfully represent the ideas that are expressed, maintain the literary style of the original text (wordplay, rhythm, assonance, alliteration, similes, etc.), while at the same time being easy to read without reference to a lot of footnotes. Unfortunately, no such translation exists. All translations represent a trade off between these various factors. This post explores some of the strengths and weakness of various approaches to Bible translations.
Translating close to the original language
This style of translation tries to find the closest English word for the given Hebrew or Greek word in the passage. Additional words are avoided unless necessary to make the sentence intelligible in English. Perhaps the best way to understand this approach is to compare some translations. Consider Isaiah 7:20.
The New American Bible (NAB 2011) prides itself on being very close to the Hebrew. Here is the NAB’s translation:
On that day the Lord shall shave with the razor hired from across the River (the king of Assyria) the head, and the hair of the feet; it shall also shave off the beard.
Clear? The New International Version (NIV) is willing to depart from the strict Hebrew if necessary to convey the meaning of the phrase accurately, perhaps that will help. Here is the NIV’s translation:
In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River– the king of Assyria– to shave your head and private parts, and to cut off your beard also.
Not much clearer, and the hair of the feet has been replaced by shaving “private parts.” The Message is primarily concerned with getting the idea across, with faithfulness to the Hebrew being much less important. The Message is considered a paraphrase. Here is the Message’s paraphrase of the same passage:
And that’s when the Master will take the razor rented from across the Euphrates—the king of Assyria no less!—and shave the hair off your heads and genitals, leaving you shamed, exposed, and denuded. He’ll shave off your beards while he’s at it.
Let’s take a look at the phrase translated “hair of the feet” in the New American Bible, which is almost word for word from the Hebrew. The NIV uses the phrase “private parts” as a replacement for the “hair of the feet.” The Message uses the phrase “genitals” to represent the Hebrew “hair of the feet.” Confused? The Biblical Hebrew text “hair of the feet” is thought to be a euphemism for pubic hair. The NAB translates the Hebrew directly, but leaves the reader with the wrong impression (that the text is referring to a hairy foot). The NIV replaces a Hebrew euphemism by an English euphemism. The message gets the idea correct, without resorting to a euphemism. A good study Bible might give you a footnote explaining the situation, or might not.
What about the Message’s insertion of “leaving you shamed, exposed and denuded?” Shaving of hair can be an act of shaming prisoners (The Oxford NRSV Study Bible points to 2 Sam 10:1-5 as another example). Now the passage makes some sense. Assyria will invade, take prisoners and shame them by removing their hair! Just translating the Hebrew, word for word, does not reveal the full meaning of the passage!
It is not always possible to find an English word that accurately corresponds to a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word. For example the Greek words eros, phileo, and agape mean different things, but have all been translated as “love.” This can mask possible meanings in the text. A classic example is the scene at the end of John (vs. 21:15-17) where (in English) Jesus three times asks Peter if he loves Jesus and three times Peter responds that he does love Jesus. Here I am not interested in the interpretation of the passage but how accurately the translation corresponds to the Greek. In the Greek Jesus twice asks Peter if he loves (agape) Jesus and Peter answers that he loves (phileo) Jesus (vs 15 and 16). The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves (phileo) him and Peter responds that he loves (phileo) Jesus (vs 17). Today agape is used as a “technical term” in Christian thought, since there is no real English equivalent. Phileo is the non-sexual fondness or affection. Is the distinction between phileo and agape important in interpreting this passage? This question is debated among scholars. What is interesting, if you rely on the English alone, you would not know that this is even an issue. If you have a study Bible, it might (should) alert you that two different Greek words are being translated using the same English word.
There are many such challenges in translating between any two languages. Two skilled translators, skilled in both the original and target language, can easily come up with different phrases to translate the original phrase. Often translation is about choices, each with strengths and weaknesses. Translation is as much an art form as it is a technical discipline. Word for word translations may get the words correctly and still fail to convey the meaning of the original documents.
Why not just use a Paraphrase?
It might seem that avoiding these complexities by reading a paraphrase is the way to go. But paraphrases have their own issues. Paraphrases involve a double interpretation. First, the author of a paraphrase must interpret the original language, with all the problems involved in a word for word translation. Then the author of the paraphrase must decide on the crucial thought that needs expression in the paraphrase. Thus a paraphrase is a sort of condensed commentary on the Biblical text. Let’s illustrate with an example: Matthew 7:1-2 The English Standard Version (ESV) is rather close to the Greek.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and, with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
Is this passage who is passing judgement on the person judging? Is God judging you? Is the person being judged, judging you back? The text isn’t clear and there is meaning in both interpretations. The Messages paraphrase of this section starts with:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. “
The interpretation of what it means to judge has been made specific, with a loss of generality. Who is judging you is still vague, (the same treatment by whom?). But at least in my reading of the translation, it seems to shift the thought toward a human response to your judging. It’s not that the interpretation is wrong, but that it limits the applicability of the passage. The viewpoint of the author plays a larger role in a paraphrase than in a translation.
Many translations operate on the assumption that both the meanings of the original language and the thoughts expressed in the Bible are both important. These translations are willing to depart from word-for-word translations if such a departure improves the reader’s ability to understand the ideas presented in the original language. The NIV and the New Revised Standard (NRS) are two examples of this “middle of the road” approach.
The NASB and NRSV have a reading level of 11th grade and above, making them inaccessible to some people. At the other extreme the Message and the living Bible are written at the 4+ grade level, making them better suited for those who have not yet entered High School. The reading level of the translation should be appropriate for the reader. My first Bible as a child was the King James which has a 12th grade reading level! (For a more complete list see the list on Bible Gateway. Choosing a Bible translation that is difficult for you to read may make it less likely that you will spend time reading that translation, making it a poor choice.
Reading Multiple Translations
Often the advice given to those who study the scriptures, and that should be all Christians, is to read multiple translations. This is useful if the translations chosen are not all in the same category. One option is to use one translation that is close to the original languages (word-for-word translations), another translation that compromises between word-for-word and thought-for- thought. If you are reading the Bible for the first time, or are a younger reader perhaps a good paraphrase would be a good first Bible. Here is a list that can get you started. For a more complete list you might see the article on Christian Books (https://www.christianbook.com/page/bibles/about-bibles/about-translations)
Translations close to the Original Language:
New American Standard Bible (closest)
English Standard Version
New King James Version
New Revised Standard Version (closest to the Original Language)
New International Version
New Living Translation (closest to Paraphrase)
The Living Bible
In closing, the most important aspect of choosing a Bible is to choose a Bible you are willing to read. We can encounter God in the scriptures only if we are willing to take the time to read the Bible.
–David A. Larrabee
David Larabee is a member of All Angels’ Church and leads the weekly Sunday discussions following The Bible Project Reading Plan.
Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions and distribute the money among all, according to what each needed. (Acts 2: 43-45)
When Jordan and I first started talking about the work of the stewardship committee, these verses were a big part of forming our ideas about the vision that we were praying over for All Angels’. We were inspired by the way that the early believers did life together and how they lived out of generosity towards God and each other. They held their possessions lightly, holding them on outstretched hands for the inclusion, care and health of each other. Jordan and I started to envision what it would look like for All Angels’ to more fully embody that kind of spirit (both in our church and in the larger community) and we got psyched! Yes, we are stewardship nerds.
To help us explore these ideas, we did an exercise with our committee early on where we all shared personal experiences with generosity that helped shape what it means in our own lives. I wanted to briefly share my story and why it showed me the power of generosity.
I was 23 years old and had been traveling for a spell in South America after I completed graduate school. This particular day, I found myself on a small bus from Quito, Ecuador going to a town called Banos. This was a common bus route and the buses were often quite full. I suspect the same “capacity” regulations that I was used to in the U.S. did not quite apply in Ecuador.
Though I am an introvert, the children in the two seats in front of me and on my left eventually got the best of me with their charm and curiosity. In my broken Spanish I chatted with them, showed them my Walkman (yes, I am showing my age!) and let them take turns listening to my music. A couple of the children were brave enough to try my Altoids and I will never forget their wide eyed surprise and dismay at the spiciness of those “candies.”
A common practice in Latin America is for food vendors to hop on a bus at the first stop in a city, sell their wares and then hop off at the next stop. A couple of hours into the bus ride, the family purchased two bags of snacks from a food vendor, one for their family of 7 and one for me. This simple act of generosity worked to include me in their circle of affection that day — a stranger from a different country and origin, but accepted and cared for. It was a powerful experience.
Human beings are not born generous, we are birthed needing and taking and consuming to survive. We have to grow into our generosity, and that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Many experiences, such as this one, have shaped my understanding of what it looks like to live a generous life. Yes, theoretical and theological ideas about stewardship and abundance are important, but I have found that it is the consistent doing of practical acts on a regular basis that actually sets the foundation for what my life’s generosity looks like.
Over the course of my life, I am constantly learning and relearning that I am not bound by the things I have, but that I am free to give because God’s provision has always been abundantly and freely given to me. I need consistent reminders to trust that sense of abundance because my human nature, my fear, and my anxiety about my own security are always at odds with my heart’s desire to live life openhanded. 18 years later, I am still so grateful for that family. For me, they have been one of those consistent reminders of the power of living in and pouring out generosity – of what happens when we offer and share what we have with others, whatever that might be.
— Martha Lee
Martha Lee is a parishioner and co-chair of the Stewardship Committee at All Angels’ Church.