So much regular news and commentary seemed superfluous after the tornadoes last Sunday and Monday.
Somebody bought a building? Somebody leased some space? Eh.
So I started to delay what follows, the comments I intend to offer from my semester in supervised ministry with Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity through Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. But then Ann Felton Gilliland, chairman and CEO of Central Oklahoma Habitat, reminded me that life must go on.
Central Oklahoma Habitat is asking for donations so it can help with rebuilding as well as keep up its work against slum housing.
After the May 3, 1999, twister, Habitat built houses for those who'd lost homes as far away as Mulhall. Hobby Lobby answered late Friday by announcing donations of $1 million each to Habitat and the American Red Cross.
Habitat goes on. So here are my final remarks on my main project, which was to find theological parallels of Habitat's work and approach to ministry in the Bible. From the New Testament:
• The Gospel of Mark 7: 24-30 — the Syrophoenician woman.
The story of the Syrophoenecian woman is short and bittersweet. The Gentile woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus balks, essentially indicating that what he has to offer is for his own people — not for her. The woman insists, cleverly turning Jesus's own insulting words — he basically calls her and her people “dogs” — to her advantage.
A common interpretation has Jesus responding to her faith. Another way to see it is that the encounter causes Jesus to think outside his own norms and to be drawn into greater community, which is another way of saying that he accepted her into his own community for the sake of an enhanced mission redefined with a greater love. In other words, the woman taught Jesus a thing or two.
The comparison with Habitat is in Habitat's embracing of “green” building, constructing houses to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program — for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
Habitat for Humanity did not initiate LEED — and while I do not know that any Habitat chapters resisted it, I do know that some people in the homebuilding business did.
LEED adds costs on the front end of a construction project; it took time for the first green builders to demonstrate that the energy savings soon make up for it and, in fact, add value to houses and other structures.
Habitat is now embracing LEED. In other words, Habitat was willing to learn a thing or two from someone outside its norms.
• The Epistle of James 1: 22-25 and 2: 14-17 — faith and works.
Habitat for Humanity, as a Christian institution and with its volunteers and partners, lives out the famous admonitions from the letter of James:
“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing.” — James 1: 22-25.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” — James 2: 14-17.
Thus ends my God talk about Habitat. The funny thing is I've written more about Habitat as Christian ministry than Habitat itself ever talks about — although it does not hide its Christian light under a bushel, so to speak. Habitat just usually lets its actions speak for themselves. Leave it to a seminarian to make it all so religious.
Amen, and I'm done.