Sermon on The Mound
The Beatitudes, recorded by the apostles Luke and Matthew, ignited the hopes of the crowd on the hill as Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God’s open door for the ones in His midst. They were the unlikeliest. They were underexposed to the Laws of the Torah and overexposed to the vicissitudes of life.
“Blessed,” He said, “are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
My Cup of Tea boldly operates within that Kingdom and invites prospective employees, volunteers, and guests to join us. In 2013, when we began our mission in Orange Mound all but three of our ladies began their employment with little, if any, Biblical education. Daily exposure to the Word, and to our manager Debbie H.’s irresistible witness of Christ has enriched each lady. No longer is anyone poor of Spirit or shy of the truth of God’s love.
For all who have mourned, God is accessible, His presence is available, and guidance to get there has come. It was life-changing when Jesus preached and remains the best news today.
The apostles and disciples of the Gospel for the last 2000 years have shared the way, and Orange Mound has a vast citizenship of members within it.
“Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on,” in the words of songwriter Paul Simon.
Blessed as well are the crushed ones, like one My Cup of Tea lady who recently slept in her car until we became aware of her situation. Her family has turned its back, but her friends and volunteers at the House have been helping her with support and offerings. Catherine T. taught her how to make jewelry to sell. She keeps her Bible open, and she calls herself blessed.
Blessed are the poor. All the ladies have struggled financially, which is what brought them to My Cup of Tea. One of the ladies, though, generously tithes her income every two weeks and has kept the payments for her bankruptcy intact and on time. She has Ginny N. to help her prepare her Bible lessons, which she has been honored to teach among her peers at her church.
“My heart is full, and though I can’t explain why my budget is working as never before, now it is. I have money at the end of the month now without fail.”
She is rich in the knowledge and experience of God’s economy.
Blessed are the former drug addicts and the abandoned, like another woman.
“I have learned so much!” she opines. “I was in a very deep dark place, when I came here, but I am living in the light now, and I am getting my life back, the life I once had.”
She answers, “Blessed!” every time I ask her how she is. She is beautiful in spirit, drug free, and thriving.
Blessed is the underemployed, and the unemployable. Two of our ladies are functionally illiterate. Before coming to us, they earned only minimum wage. They hold an important and key role in our production process and are irreplaceable in our hearts and fellowship. They bless us and in their presence is an aura of joy. Their income is meeting rent and necessities.
Blessed are the emotionally starved, like our newest hire. She came to us from foster care and unspeakable abuse from her childhood. Eight “mothers” here immediately adopted her, prayed for her, and lovingly coached her in caring for her new baby girl. She has tasted the blessing and remains in our prayers. Though she doesn’t know it quite yet, she is the apple of God’s eye.
The blessings rain down, and the floods of praise rise up. Much of the flow of the Spirit within our walls is related to our volunteers - sisters whom we have collected and kept close. We don’t say enough about the ministry they bring to Orange Mound. Twenty ladies bring a full lunch every weekday and have served us for 10 years. With the bounty, we have leftovers and food for the evening meal at home.
All our ladies have a close connection to at least one of the sisters who resources them with ideas and advice when asked. Time and trust have afforded all of us authentic relationships. There are many more sisters who donate furniture to L. Cool’s enterprise. She refurbishes and sells with the help of Shelley H. Cool has saved enough now to make an application for one of the new houses to be built soon down the block from The House.
There are experts in their fields, such as Robin B., Tracey S., and Sandy H. who give time and treasure to all. Each has brought a professional offering that none of the ladies would be able to access or afford.
There are gardeners who coach and labor in our vegetable plantings such as Macon I., Marynell T., and Susan L. They help plant and harvest and water and weed on the hot days of summer, always encouraging, and now rejoicing in the skills the ladies have gained.
There are advisors in finance, like Paige P. and many who shop with us and help market our tea. Some help with social media, some assist in social courtesy, and some lavish hospitality when we are out in the city in unfamiliar spaces.
The mount where this sermon was preached is not all that different from The Mound where our crowd of women is living today. The message is the same. The sisters who help lead us resemble the apostles He chose. All are giving their resources and genuinely loving their neighbor in Orange Mound. I have said in this column more than once that we must know our neighbor to love her, and love always requires action. The Gospel is advancing to the ends of the earth, as well as to the center of our City of Blues. The irony remains. The blessed poor are rich, and those giving away the riches are most blessed.