The only discourse that includes justice for all is the unapologetic voice advocating for the most vulnerable. And this can come in the most unexpected ways.Compassion takes us out of a ‘me’ perspective, to a place that breaks hearts, so that love will be the driving force to change lives.
As I sat and talked with one of the guys I’ve met at a ministry for the homeless here in St Johns, he mentioned he fought in El Salvador serving in the US military as a Black Op. We were in my living room, so I handed him a book I own on El Salvador with lilustrations. He first mentioned he wouldn’t share anything about his experience or what he saw happen down there.
As he began scanning the pages he opened up. He didn’t begin by sharing the horrific torture the poor experienced during El Salvador’s civil war. Last night my friend Don didn’t have the tools yet. What he saw in the book are photos of families living their lives, women washing clothes, groups advocating for justice, and images of the landscape.
Don only shared how wonderfully caring people can be and that horrible things happened to men, women, and children. In opening up just a little, drawn by the pictures of people and a place familar to him, the scabs of his heart broke just enough to break mine and open us both up to a place where love can be the driving to change lives.
Rolled in the trough of thick desire
No oars, and no sea-anchor out
To bring my bow into the pyre
of sunset, suddenly chilling out
To shadow over sky and sea,
And the boat helpless in the trough;
No oil to pour; no power in me
To breast these waves, to shake them off.
I feel such pity for the poor,
Who take the fracas on the beam–
Being ill-equipped, being insecure–
Daily; and caulk the opening seam
With strips of shirt and scribbled rhyme;
Who bail disaster from the boat
With a pint can; and have no time
Being so engrossed to keep afloat,
Even for quarreling (that chagrined
And lavish comfort of the heart),
Who never came into the wind
Who took life beam-on from the start.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay
Paraphrase: Daily we struggle with our desires and weaknesses, yet woe to the poor who cannot steer their life, so struggling to just remain alive.
In my younger days I thought that my whole world was fine.
And in so many ways it seemed it was the way it should be.
But now I’m growing older and come to realize:
If you want a beautiful world, you’ve got to open up your eyes.
Working everyday can make you blind to a dying man,
And in those triumph days, seems you should lend a helping hand.
To understand or to reason is not for you and me;
But to help the lifes of others, so that we could possibly
Build a better world, lift your voices to the sky;
Build a better world, there’s no need to wonder why.
Build a better world, let the joyful music take you high.
We can build a better world if we try.
We’ve got to try,
Not until we’ve tried;
We got to try and lift God high.
To Pastor Steve, Wayne, Pete Blaine, Dave and the awesomest Gresham’s children in Christ and passing it on!
There was this flock of crows on the stretch of lawn adjacent to the east side of the prayer house. The flock launched just as this big gust of wind rose up and one of the birds got slammed into the wall. It bounced off and through a shrub and landed on the lawn.
I was pretty sure it was dead, but then about 8 crows landed and surrounded the downed bird. About a minute passed and then one of the crows went over and nudged it with its beak. The downed bird fluttered a little and then rose up into a nesting position and the others just stayed with their comrade. Another moment or two passed and the downed bird was standing but was still a bit wobbly.
A neighbor was passing through with a little dog on a leash, but the 8 Crows took a protective formation and let out a series of cries and in about 10 seconds the number of crows increased to about 30. Now, a full 10 minutes had passed, and the downed bird had made a couple of test launches and then with much fanfare the entire flocked walked away from the building and then launched into the air and flew over to the Gardens on the Southeast side of the property and resumed their search for munchables.
Kind of reminds me of a Mantra we had in the battlefield: No man left behind.
In the book of Romans the Apostle Paul said that the very nature of God could be seen through His creation. It is the Fathers nature that none should perish.
Even the Crows have learned that and yet humankind has not. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us……
“You shall not wrong an immigrant or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”
The widows and orphans are those who have no ability to bring their matter to court because they had no social or legal standing, just as a felon or the very poor do not in our society, because they cannot sue. God especially sees the helpless in any society– the children, the mentally ill, the outcast, those who cannot or will not be listened to by society at large. One of those groups today are the homeless. Note that God takes very seriously those who use their privileged position to harm the helpless. God’s judgment is reserved for the poverty pimps– those who take advantage of those who cannot strike back.
How blessed is he who makes plans for the poor; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.
The LORD will protect him and keep him alive,
And he shall be called blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, You restore him to health.
Just as we do to others in need, the Lord will do to us in our time of need. The amount of mercy we show, that is the mercy we will receive. Many of the homeless are blessed by God because of their generosity to their friends.
God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers.
How long will you judge unjustly And show partiality to the wicked? Selah.
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.
I think this is one of the most under-discussed passages in the Bible. The rulers of the world—whether spiritual or earthly or religious—will be destroyed unless they assist the poor as God commands them. Why did God judge Sodom? Because they oppressed the poor. Why does God destroy the Hitlers and Sadaams of this world? Because they harm the helpless. Every nation should take note– God cares how they treat the most needy under their care. Some cities are on the edge of being judged, just for how they treat the homeless.
And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say,
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.
Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”
Jesus was saying this to his disciples—“You of my disciples who become poor, you will possess God’s kingdom… but you who remain rich, you will gain nothing.” It isn’t the amount of wealth that we have, according to Jesus, but what we do with it. If we use our meager resources for the needy and desperate, if we have struggled to endure with God and others have been attacking us for it, then we will gain all we need and more by God’s hand. However, if we use our great resources for our own comfort, our own entertainment, to soothe our addled minds, then no matter how good of a disciple we are, God has no room for us in His kingdom. Many of the craziest of the homeless are God’s people, while many of those safely in church leadership are out.
“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.
The rich man suffers because he refused to give. The homeless man is rewarded because he suffered.
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.
The church who honors the rich but does not honor the poor has broken Christ’s law. The church who honors the poor honors the ones who live in faith. Churches should stop trying to find ways to get more middle class people into seats. They should start planting churches among the homeless, no matter how much money they lose.
And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
I Corinthians 12:21-26
The church has the responsibility to give greater respect to those of the body who are less honored by the world, and those who are weaker. The members of Christ who suffer should be assisted by those who do not. How many churches seek to welcome the poor to their leadership groups?