Tuesday, May 30, 2006
The Least of These
Saturday found me once again sitting on a concrete bench under the bridge downtown. Pretend for a moment that you're sitting there with me....
I'm glad at least to be in a dry place as the grey skies drizzle and the air is cold. I know in a while I'll go home to the warmth and comfort of my home, but for many others gathered there, the only home they have is the shelter of a bridge, the back of their car, or a weather beaten tent. There's a lot going on as loud music plays, smoke billows from barb-b-ques as those serving there work to keep up with the demand for hamburgers, a long line of people wait to receive a plate of food, some rummage through clothing in hopes of finding something for them or their children, others wait to have their hair cut, and children get their faces painted and make little crafts. As we look out over this scene you wonder if anything is really accomplished on these days. Zoom in, if you will, to where two women are standing cutting hair. Clarence, who received a hair cut last summer, is back. He remembers Michele, who cut his hair, and is greeted warmly with a hug. He looks at her and says "I will never forget Jesus." She proceeds to cut his hair and converse with him, love him and pray over him.
Over there is a man named Dean. He's been on the streets for a long time and has battled substance abuse and addiction. He's a regular at these outreaches, and over time David has developed a relationship with him. One day he washed dishes all day long. When he was thanked at the end of the day his reply was "No, Thank you! This gave me a reason to stay sober today." Some time later was Dean sitting alone at a bus stop, plagued by thoughts of hopelessness and despair. He planned to end his life. As he looked up he saw David's truck driving by he remembered the things he's heard about Jesus. He began walking, not knowing where David lived. I believe he was led by God, because he came to a house and recognized David's truck out front. They proceeded to sit on the tailgate for the next few hours, talking and praying together. Dean dropped out of the picture one day, and David feared the worst- that yet another of his friends had died of a drug overdose or something along those lines. Months went by, and then an email came from Dean. He was in a town south of here, living with a pastor, and had been sober for 50 days! Today Dean and his pastor made the drive over the mountains, along with 250 hamburgers, to come and serve alongside David and the others who labor together for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are others I could point to- Curt, over there, is flipping burgers. After his release from prison he's staying clean, walking with the Lord, and ministering to others. One person presses two dollar bills into David's hand, a contribution. It reminds me of the widow's mite- what is two dollars to most of us? But to many of these people it's all they have. There are a few that come to Christ, but there are many who never do. We do this, though, in obedience to our Lord's command to care for the poor. Over and over, throughout the Scripture, we see God's heart, and his desire for His people to care for the poor and needy. Our job is not to judge their situation or how they got there, but to share the love of Christ with them and to share in God's heart for these people. We remember His words in the great and terrible story of the sheep and the goats. In our country, these people are "the least of these." They are smelly and dirty; let us love them. They are hungry and thirsty and cold; let us feed and clothe them. Many of them are sick and in prison; let us care for them, visit them, pray for them. And let us introduce them to the Great Physician, the healer of bodies and souls.
Let us be found worthy on that day, to hear the words "What you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."