Summary: A sermon for World Communion Sunday.
“I Don’t Want to Feed ‘em; You Feed ‘em”
By: Rev. Ken Sauer, Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Anthony Wayne sat in front of his makeshift tent Monday, his few belongings packed in two suitcases and three or four plastic tubs.”
“I’m packing up,” He said.
“I don’t know where I’ll go…”
Mr. Wayne, a retiree is among some 30-35 homeless people who had to vacate “tent city” this past week, an encampment of tarps and cast-off chairs along the railroad right-of-way off East 11th Street near the Community Kitchen.
On Tuesday morning Northern Southern Railroad left people without shelter as they bulldozed the encampment.
It is said that we have a “chronic” homeless population in the city of Chattanooga.
A displaced woman was escorted in the early morning darkness from the encampment by Norfolk Southern police as bulldozers ran over campsites.
The woman gave her name to be “Marie” and said she couldn’t recall her last name.
She talked about domestic abuse at her home before she became homeless.
Two ministers who rushed to the scene weren’t able to convince local mental health workers that “Marie” needed immediate help.
A representative from the Chattanooga Housing Authority told the paper: “If there were 80 people burned out of an apartment building, there would be an immediate response: The Red Cross would step in and there would be a process in place…But with tent city nobody was doing anything.”
A man who works with Rev. Barry Kidwell’s Forrest Avenue United Methodist Church was quoted as saying: “There’s been a lot of money appropriated locally for homeless dogs and cats, but nothing for homeless people.”
Why did Norfolk Southern Railroad bulldoze literally the only “homes” of some of the most marginalized and outcaste persons in our community?
According to Norfolk Southern spokesperson Susan Terpay railroad officials were concerned about the encampment’s proximity to the rail line, and some individuals had approached railroad employees to panhandle.
She added that some of the homeless folks had been seen on the track and it had become a safety concern.
Sadly enough, they didn’t appear to be very concerned about the safety of the displaced persons after they bulldozed their dwellings.
Where would they live?
Where would they go?
I saw a picture of some of the women who used to live in Tent City.
They looked so sad, so dirty, so lost, so forgotten.
They are human beings, people whom God loves.
They are no different than you or I.
It’s sad that a city with a church on every corner…
…a city with a Christian Church on every street block…
…a city with so many who profess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord…
…the same Jesus Christ who, at the beginning of His ministry proclaimed:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me
To proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the blind,
To release the oppressed,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Is unable or unwilling to do more for those who are poor and marginalized.
We live in a restless culture.
We are all so busy!!!
Stress is almost built into our body clocks.
I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I find myself hurrying to get somewhere.
I think so often, we feel so rushed that we are too tired or too hurried to notice those around us who are starving for love and meaning.
Last year we were visiting my sister and brother-in-law who live right on the Ohio River.
Both of them are high ranking executives for Proctor and Gamble.
One evening, we decided to walk across the bridge in order to go see a Cincinnati Reds game.
We were running a little late, and so we were walking fast.
As we began to approach the stadium, along with thousands of other baseball fans who were headed in the same direction…we came upon literally hundreds and hundreds of destitute, poor and homeless persons…and they were all begging for money.
As we rushed past them, I turned to Jeanne and remarked, “If I lived in this town I’m not so sure I could enjoy going to a Red’s game where tons of money is wasted on 5 dollar hot dogs, 8 dollar beers, and 4 dollar bottles of water…while there are so many hungry folks outside the gates.”
What makes us so much greater than them?
I had nothing to do with the fact that I was born a white male into a middle to upper middle class family…a family that loved me…would do anything for me…made sure I got a good education…and made sure I would have all the tools needed to have a good life.