I remember a story by John Neuhouse that I read in "First Things" several years ago. He walked into a Church and saw a banner that read
GOD IS OTHER PEOPLE!
Now, I affirm that we often serve God by serving other people. I am a deacon and find that the most fulfilling ministry I do is not at the Altar (although I love the Altar). The most fulfilling ministry I do is in the prison or at the Sunday School class. I find that I serve God best by serving His people - even if those people deny that they belong to God (especially if they deny they belong to God!). If you want to serve God, go among His people and serve them in God's name. Go to a homeless shelter, a prison, a soup kitchen, a resale shop. Teach Sunday School, help clean up after a church dinner. Join a yard team to keep the church grounds neat. Join a mobile yard team that cuts the grass of elderly or disabled people who cannot afford to pay someone to cut their grass. By looking in the face of the poor, the oppressed, the sick, prisoners, and the like, we see the face of God. To know God, know His people.
Fr. Neuhouse wanted to change the banner slightly. He wanted to put a comma in it.
GOD IS OTHER, PEOPLE!
This shows us that God is not like us. God is utterly Other. We are not God. To know God, know that you are not Him and neither is anyone else. To know God, know that you know nothing yourself. To know God, you must seek Him to reveal Himself to you. To know God, we must hear the "still small voice" the Elijah heard. To know God, we must wait for Him.
Now, as an Anglican, I affirm both statements. I know that serving other people is serving God. And I know that other people are not God. I am called to serve them. But they are not God. Only God is God. I cannot put their needs ahead of God's needs because they often don't know their need. They "need" power, drugs, money, affirmation, food, shelter. What they really need is Jesus (along with food, shelter, and God's love). This Lent I call you to seek God's face in the face of the poor around us. I also call you to seek God's face in prayer and meditation. Know God in other people and Know God as other, people!