The ministry we do with the homeless is not too complex – at least not right now. We try to make sure some basic needs are met. We try to make sure people’s humanity is acknowledged. We try to create a sense of community. We try to share Good News with people and let them know that they are not alone. We try to tell people that they are loved and valued by God and by us. We try to tell people that they have value and worth. We try to listen to their stories and walk along side people. We try to learn from the people we encounter. The underlying belief is that an encounter with Jesus changes lives – both for the people we encounter and our own lives too.
And the responses vary. Sometimes people reject us. Sometimes people are only looking for some material relief. Some are not open to change in their lives. Some would rather try to be in control, although being in control is often a part of the problem and a piece of what keeps people where they are. Some initially come on board and engage with us, only to slip away later on – the tug of their past and their lives is too great. Some start to see hope for their lives, and then they choose a different path that takes them back into the darkness. They feel they are lost.
And then there are some who openly embrace it all – they embrace us, even though there is initial confusion on why a group of strangers would go out of their way to care about another stranger – especially a stranger who supposedly can’t offer anything in return. They embrace a message of Good News, even though their life looks like crap. They embrace the sense of community. They embrace their humanity, they acknowledge the pain and suffering they are experiencing rather than trying to dull it. They let go of control and embrace actual help.
And it’s scary. It’s scary to completely let go of control of your life. It’s terrifying. Yet, this is what Jesus calls on us to do – to let go of our lives, to get out-of-the-way, so that God can come in and transform us. To let ourselves die, so that we might experience resurrection. And this is true for those who are being helped as well as the supposed helpers. With Jesus, the lines blur on who is getting helped and who is helping.
When I think about what is happening, I can’t help but think of the Parable of the Sower.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’
(Matthew 13:1-9, NRSV)
Our job isn’t to save people – only Jesus can do that. Our job, if you want to call it that, is to spread Good News carelessly – to as many people as possible. What they do with it is not our problem.
In sales, there is a saying – Some will, some won’t, so what, who’s next. If Jesus has sales training I think he would have adopted this saying into one of his parables.
Some will take the Good News of Jesus and allow it to do its work. Some won’t. So what – it’s not for us to decide. Who’s next – who will be encounter next to share the Good News? We don’t know. But we are ready.