Summary: God asks us to give our lives to him and serve him by serving others. We say to them, “God loves you and so do I”. We can reduce poverty. On Judgment Day, we will be judged by how we lived our lives and whether or not we loved others like Christ loves us.
“I was homeless and you took me in…”
As the worshipers arrived for church in a small town one Sunday morning, they were met by a rather disturbing sight. An apparently homeless beggar sat on the front steps of the church, wearing tattered clothing, a wool cap pulled down over his eyes, and clutching a bottle in fingerless gloves. They had never seen anything quite like this in their town.
Most worshipers simply walked around the man, or stepped over him, as he sat there. Some muttered words of disapproval, and others suggested that the man move to another doorway before the Sunday school children arrived. One member told the man, in no uncertain terms, that the Salvation Army was a more appropriate place to sleep it off. At one point, a kind woman brought the man a Styrofoam cup of hot coffee, but not one person asked the man to come in out of the cold, and certainly nobody invited him in to join them in worship.
Imagine, then, the people’s surprise during the entrance hymn, when their homeless friend made his way into the pulpit and took off his cap. The people recognized that it was their pastor! The pastor began his remarks that morning in this way: “I didn’t do this to embarrass you or to poke you in the eye. I did it to remind us that this is a person that Jesus loves, and he has called us to love him, too.”
There is much that we as Christians can do to ease the plight of the homeless. One of the main causes of homelessness is war and strife that forces people to flee for their lives. They often end up in refugee camps where the conditions are not always ideal. Throughout history, Christians have responded by welcoming refugees into their homes and countries. For example, several years ago the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Milton sponsored refugee families from Vietnam on a couple of different occasions. While these families did eventually leave the area to settle in larger centres to be closer to people from their own country and culture, the members of the church can take some pride in the fact that they did what they could to help.
Sometimes dealing with refugees and the victims of conflict involves personal sacrifice. A good example is the life of Raoul Wallenberg. He was a Swedish diplomat who is credited with saving the lives of at least 100,000 Jews in Budapest, Hungary during World War II. He did this by issuing fake Swedish protective passes. Because Sweden was a neutral country during the war, these passes were recognized and accepted by the Nazis even though they had no real value under international law.
Raoul Wallenberg paid the ultimate price for his actions. In January 1945, after the Soviet Army liberated Hungary, he requested and received permission to visit the Soviet military headquarters. He never arrived, and he was never seen again. To this day his disappearance remains a mystery. The official Russian position was that he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy for the United States. The Russian government even claimed as late as 2001 that he died of a heart attack in 1947 in prison in Moscow. Other stories state that he was executed.
As I look around our community, I see the elderly and the poor, and I’m disappointed by the lack of affordable housing, nursing homes and retirement homes. Our Rector will touch on the nursing home issue in a couple of weeks. I would like to speak for a few moments about the lack of affordable housing and the lack of retirement housing in the area, and what we can do to help the homeless.
If you drive through the low income areas of our community, the lack of affordable housing becomes apparent. There are homes that are neat and well-kept, but there are also homes that are in a state of disrepair because the owners are either unable and/or unwilling to have the necessary repairs done. If they are unable to have the needed work done, it is often because they can’t afford to do so. While there are government programs available that are designed to assist with housing repairs, often times low income homeowners are either unaware of them or they can’t understand the paperwork involved or they can’t navigate the “red tape”.
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian ministry that puts God’s love in action by bringing people together to build low-cost, single family housing. Recently, Habitat for Humanity International’s CEO Jonathan Reckford wrote:
The sum of our work is truly greater than any one part of our equation. In building homes and communities, Habitat welcomes all partners—churches, civic groups, corporations, governments, and individuals. From securing property rights for homeowners to encouraging the provision of the necessary infrastructure to build shelter, Habitat works with governments around the world. Habitat also strives to deepen existing relationships and initiate new partnerships with local churches, denominations, and faith organizations. We believe that adequate housing is foundational for improving the lives of families and that housing is as important to community health as it is to individual health. One of our strengths is the ability to bring together the public, private, and nonprofit sectors—including the church—to change lives and transform communities.