Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
- Hebrews 11:1-2
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
- Matthew 9:35-38
ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus
“People who work with the homeless and inner-city youth can tell you of looking into their eyes and seeing devastation and hopelessness in their worst stages. The looks of people who spend their nights sleeping in doorways or under bridges, having blank stares and pinched lips, speak volumes more than words can convey. They are convinced they are unloved and unlovable. Today in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, men and women going to work often just step around the homeless living on the sidewalks, shunning them, or pretending they aren’t even there.
“Governments try to help, as do service agencies, inner-city missions, and healthcare facilities. But many of the homeless are wary of authority and suspicious of those who would provide help. Yet, for many in the homeless population, Christian organizations do more than offer hot meals and a safe place to stay. They get to know these men, women, and young people as neighbors in need, developing a relational approach.
“There will always be homelessness—it is an ongoing crisis among the poorest. But it is time for more followers of Jesus to be merciful, compassionate, and loving, looking for the opportunity to serve, to befriend, to offer hope. Look on each one as an individual for whom Christ died, a soul worthy of redemption. We live in a broken world, among broken people. Faith and the Gospel of grace and mercy is a start for all they need. As Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into this harvest.’”
- Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
Have you ever had one of those days when you realize how close you came to being homeless? Maybe you are reading this, and you have been homeless or are presently homeless.
I awoke to a strange earworm this morning. The tune is by Edith Nesbit Bland, usually sung in a round, but the words are of an old nursery rhyme and Christmas song.
“Christmas is coming, the
goose is getting fat
please to put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha-penny will do
if you haven’t got a ha-penny than God bless you”
I have not fallen off my rocker and joined the masses who start thinking of Christmas in October. No, I employ a mild boycott of stores that advertise, in my opinion, “too early, like late September and October.” Yes, I have in the past been an early Christmas shopper, but I grew up when the word Christmas was not allowed to be spoken before Thanksgiving, and only on that day while watching the Macy’s parade – long before Black Friday was a thing. Of course, behind closed doors in countless businesses, planning for Christmas was going on long before that – it just was not advertised.
No, I substituted “Your birthday” for Christmas in the song above. My wife had a birthday, earlier this week. I really want to write her story, but it may require a multitude of posts.
But regardless of the first word(s) in the first line of the song, the following three lines, after the first, apply to any day of the year. There is always that old man. These days, he may not have a hat, but then do you have a spare penny, a half-penny, otherwise known as a ha-penny? If not, then God bless you.
That got me to thinking of the devotion quoted above. Our homeless situation is getting worse. The Emma Lazarus poem invites people to our shores to experience the freedom to not be homeless, not exchange the misery of one land for the misery of another. As the devotion says, the look in their eyes shows no sign of hope. Shelters can give them a roof and a warm meal, but the hope that Hebrews 11 starts with is in short supply, especially in the US. You, who are needy in the US, are surrounded by wealth, yet you have none. When people try hard to grab the illusive brass ring, and there is no ring to be grabbed, given to the pretty boy who set up the boss’ golf tournament while you were doing yours and his jobs… Maybe the loss of the brass ring for you was with different circumstances. Maybe you were never in a position to get on the carousel and lean for the ring in the first place. (For those who are unfamiliar with ‘grabbing the brass ring,’ There were rings set off the edge of carousels in the old days. You rode the wooden ponies, and if you were brave, daring, or a bit crazy, you could stretch out and grab a ring and get a prize – or fall off the wooden horse and break a bone or two or worse. Business picked up on that phrase of grabbing the brass ring, meaning a promotion.)
You go to other countries, and there are so many people who are poorer than dirt. These people are happy. They have no middle-class around them to aspire to. They have experienced life and they have adjusted to it. They have hope, but it is marginalized by reality. I worked with many engineers in India. There hope was to buy their own car before they reached retirement age. With them, there was hope, but on a different scale.
By the way, if in dealing with beggars, I was taught that when you go to a fancy Mumbai hotel and there is a throng of beggars, a sea of broken humanity, outside the security zone around the hotel, never give money directly to a beggar. You will be mobbed and beaten by the other beggars. Instead, after you pass by security, and you are safe, throw a few coins past security and let the beggars decide who gets it. And, from personal experience, if a five-year-old wants to hold your hand, watch out. Her seven-year-old sister will soon be picking your pocket. Sorry, all she found was a soiled handkerchief. The photo above is of the Gateway to India in Mumbai. The pickpocket duo worked between the Gateway and the hotel. Just a bit closer to the hotel is where the snake charmers performed, with the beggars filling a space as wide as a 2-3 lane highway between the snake charmers and the hotel entrance steps, where security forbade beggars to go.
But getting back to our homeless situation in America, there will always be homelessness. Some do not wish to have a roof over their heads, while others are desperately looking for one. But for the Christian, the focus should be searching for those in need of a Heavenly home, while tending to the present needs. We need to make the Hope that is in Christ real for them. It may start with letting them know that they are loved.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.