The statue began with his faith. An Ontario-based artist had the 25th chapter of Matthew in mind as he sculpted. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells his disciples though a parable that when they help the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the least who are members of the human family, they also help him.
But his statue was considered controversial, it made people uncomfortable. He “depicted a darkly shrouded figure lying huddled on a long park bench. From a distance, the figure could be anyone, and only on close examination do you see the crucifixion wounds, visible on his exposed feet.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/jesus-the-homeless-sculpture-rejected-catholic-churches_n_3085584.html)
Timothy Schmalz's "Homeless Jesus” was inspired by a scene he witnessed one December night when he spotted a homeless man lying on a park bench, he said. "My instinctive thought was, that is Jesus Christ. I just saw Jesus."
But way too many in our country don’t see Jesus among the homeless. They see them as deterrents to economic progress, as a nuisance and a problem to be dealt with.
In cities like Raleigh, NC, Columbia, SC, Tampa, FL& Portland, OR –laws are passed to arrest the homeless, not allowing the homeless to leave a shelter, hotlines so you can call and remove a homeless person and sometimes laws are made against those who minister to them. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/homelessness/)
Love Wins Ministries has been working with the homeless for over 6 years in Raleigh, NC. Their statement about who they are says, “At Love Wins Ministries, We feed people… But we are not a feeding ministry. Sometimes, we help people get jobs…But we are not a job training program. Maybe 10-12 times a year, someone leaves homelessness with our help…But we are not a housing ministry. Yet, at any given moment, we may be doing any of those things. But what we really are is a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population of Raleigh, NC.”
But last Saturday they were told not to feed the people outside the park like they had been doing or they would be arrested for breaking a city ordinance. The pastor tweeted what happened and then social media picked up the story. By mid-week the mayor and city council said the ordinance wouldn’t be enforced…
It got me thinking about how the faith that we have inside us, will lead us at times to a place of conflict, a place where we must choose what we will do and what our faith means to us.
As we prepare to baptize two little ones among us, Isabelle & Mason, it is important for us to think about how we live out our Christian faith, how we raise up these little ones in the Christian faith and how through our prayers and witness help these and all children to grow
into the full stature of their Christian faith.
Not just by the words we use but by our actions (our prayers and witness). What does our faith say we should do about those in need?
Jesus said, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."Jesus invites us to look beyond our comfort zone and look to those in need, to those who can’t repay us. Help them, Jesus says. Look through the eyes of humility that looks to the well-being of all; humility is part and parcel of being a disciple of Jesus.
In the letter to the Hebrews this morning, we heard these words, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”Again, our lives are commended to do good, to share what we have, by doing so we are living out our faith. And we do this, because we are all children of God, all made in God’s image, no one better than another.
A minister was invited to preach one weekend at a large New York City church and was told that if he usually ate breakfast, he could have breakfast at the church with the homeless.I was invited. – How will you care for the least in our society? How will you invite them in and not shut them out?
So early Sunday morning, the visiting preacher came to that church and stood in line with maybe two hundred people, waiting to be served. He struck up conversations with those waiting with him.
Several people shared their stories of illness, financial disaster, unemployment, divorce, broken relationships. Then someone who did not know he was a minister asked him, "What put you here?"
Not knowing what to answer, he said, "I was invited." Not wanting to create any distance, he sat with them for breakfast, ate what they ate, talked with them, and got to know them a little more before heading to the church. [Fred Craddock, Craddock Stories.]
Jesus asks us to act through the perspective of Gospel humility - humility that realizes that we are not the center of all things but part of a much larger world, humility that is centered in gratitude for all the blessings we have received as a result of the depth of God's love & to act out of that love for God has set us a banquet table for every needy, hurting, & confused soul. Amen.