Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Shuffling in like Elijah, Part II

Jesus, as he wept over the city of Jerusalem, sobbed out, “If you had known, even you, especially this in your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…You did not know the time of your visitation.” You did not recognize the holy in your midst.

The Shunammite woman not only recognized Elisha as a holy one, she not only responded to his need on a case by case basis, she made him an honored guest, a special place, a room of his own.

I am thinking about one of the ways that we make room for the holy at Jeff Street. I am thinking about Diane Moten, who as our Minister to the Homeless, comes to the church before dark, and straightens the tables, makes the coffee, sets out the cups and napkins and sugar and creamer, sets out the pastries. Then she opens the doors at 7:00, and welcomes in the holy. Now, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like our society’s refuse, most of them, raggedy beards, disheveled clothing, shoes that don’t fit. No, they don’t look holy, mind you. They look like they haven’t had a place to lay their head for the night, and many of them haven’t.

According to our records, about half of the men who come to our Hospitality Program “sleep out,” meaning that they lay their heads wherever they can, down by the river, under a bridge somewhere, in an abandoned building. No, they don’t look holy, and they don’t smell holy, and they don’t act holy, either. Old Joe, who puts empty coffee mugs down in his pants—you can hear them clink together as he walks along. Others, whose curses are punctuated with apologies, “Sorry, Diane,” they say in between profanities.

But because Jesus was able to recognize the holy in his midst, and gave us some clues to look for—“whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he said—we know, on our best days, anyway, deep in our gut of guts that these men and women are somehow holy, are somehow him. And so at 7:00 a.m., Diane opens our doors to the holy, welcomes them into this place that she, like the Shunammite woman has so carefully prepared, and they shuffle in like Elisha, deeply appreciative of the coffee and newspaper and telephone and space and place that has become like a second home.

And as I tell you this, I’m wondering, who are the holy in your midst, the holy that might not look so holy or act so holy, but who, like our homeless friends, are in need of a tender touch, in need of a welcome word, in need of some down home hospitality? Who are the Elishas in your world, in your church? The Apostle Paul tells the church that we should be “given to hospitality.” Given to hospitality. And I’m wondering, for whom do you need to make a special place?

by Pastor Cindy, who does often, for the least of these


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