Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Day Johnny Got Stabbed (Matthew 26:11)

The poor will always be with us, and sometimes someone gets stabbed because of it. 

The inner-city church I served provided a free breakfast to the homeless on Sunday mornings, when free meals in the city were scarce. It was a hectic but loving event. We worked hard to provide good meals, fresh coffee, and welcoming volunteers. With an average of 175 guests, our little basement Fellowship Hall got crowded. We had a gentleman in his late 30’s with some possible mental health issues who would come often, and he would wear headphones and listen to music, occasionally singing along. 

One morning he was singing (or rapping, I guess) to a song that contained some….questionable…..language. An older, African-American gentleman asked him to stop, that the language was not appropriate under any circumstances. Johnny said ‘no, and what are you going to do about it’. And the guy pulled out a knife and swung at him, nicking his cheek. That’s what he was going to do about it. 

Guardian Angels serving as our security and a few other guests quickly jumped in and separated the men. A nurse who happened to be volunteering that day used butterfly strips to fix him up and he declined our offer to call to police. (We respected our guests wishes in situations like this. If medical attention were necessary it would have been different.) The man with the knife was banned from our program, and Johnny was given a stern warning regarding music and informed he would also be banned if the inappropriate language continued. 

But that is not the most important part of the story. At the time, we had a sweet, petite, young, female intern. Our church was her first experience with inner city mission work and she wanted to jump in. She served part of her internship providing pastoral care to our guests and support to the volunteers. She was still pretty new and easily startled at that point (now she is a rock-star, ass-kicking minister who isn’t phased by anything). 

When the fight broke out, one of our other homeless guests jumped up and put himself between our intern and the fight to protect her. When the situation was under control, he turned to her and assured her everything was fine and made sure she was alright. 

When we think of the homeless, do the words caring, compassionate, and protective come to mind? It is easy to use the words ‘homeless’ or ‘poor’ as the primary descriptor of someone, but to do so minimizes their true identity as a child of God and all of the beautiful qualities that go along with that. 

Challenge your congregation to come up with descriptive words for the people we see in our mission programs, shelters and on street corners. If we are to believe Matthew 26:11, the poor will always be with us. And if that is the case, in your sermon on Matthew 26, challenge your congregation as to why they categorize people by their socio-economic status and how would that look in their own lives. If they had a roommate and the only thing they ever learned about that person was their financial situation, how meaningful of a relationship would that be, and how long would they want to live with that person? If the poor will always be with us, wouldn't it be better to know them as people, to be in meaningful relationships? 

No comments:

Post a Comment