Tag Archives: homelessness

When the Community Shows Up at Your Door

(reprinted from Ripple-Allentown.com with permission)

by Danilo Sanchez, pastor of Ripple congregation (Allentown)

In recent years there seems to be an increase in the number of churches that have changed their name to include the word “community.” Everyone loves being a “community church” until the community wants to come through their doors. Because it’s one thing to go into the community—you can enter the messiness and leave it behind whenever you want—but it’s entirely different when the community wants to be part of your congregation.

If you claim you want to serve the community, particularly those living on the margins, you have to be ready for when the community shows up at your door and wants to share life with you. Too often the church says, “Okay homeless people, here is your section of the building: don’t touch anything, don’t make a mess, and don’t smoke in the front of the building.  If you break any of our rules, you’re gone. I hope you feel the love of Jesus!”

Putting up barriers and devaluing people can’t be the way Jesus wants the church to behave.

Jesus told the parable of man who held a great banquet and sent out a servant to invite many distinguished guests.  But each guest declined the invitation with more important matters to attend to.  The owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the disabled, and the outcast.”

“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”

Then the owner told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”

God’s kingdom is limitless, abundant, and grace-filled. There is always room for more people to join in the banquet, to experience God’s love and generosity, and to be transformed. In the parable, the invitation to be part of God’s banquet extends beyond the city limits to the roads and country lanes, which were unsafe (talk about a reversal to our thinking that says the city is unsafe!). Jesus is declaring: “My kingdom is so full of goodness that I don’t want anyone to miss out. Everyone is welcome, even the bandits.”

We are not God. We are not the owners of the banquet. We are the servants. We don’t get to decide who is invited. Our role is to invite and welcome everyone into the kingdom of God.

I imagine one of the guests asking Jesus a follow up question: “But Jesus, aren’t you afraid ‘those’ people will ruin your house?! They’re going to eat all your food, steal your toilet paper and dinner plates, and dirty up the house.” Jesus appears not to be threatened by this possibility. He knows the risk and does not qualify his open invitation to enter his father’s house. For when people get a taste of the joy, hope, and grace of God’s kingdom they can’t help but be transformed.

As the church, we must trust in the transforming work and power of Jesus. Will the lying, stealing, and messiness still happen? Yes. Will our boundaries and patience be tested? Yes. But if we stay in relationship with those people, continue to practice generosity, and trust in God, will we see transformation? Absolutely.

At our church and Ripple Community, Inc., time and time again we have found this to be true. We have witnessed lives transformed. We will not let fear stop us from inviting those on the corners, alleys, and tents from being part of our community, sharing our space, and being part of our lives.

Read Danilo’s full blog here and find out more about the ministry of Ripple Allentown and Ripple Community, Inc.

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone

by Barbie Fischer

Abraham pic 5-26-16In our last edition, we began our series on hospitality and took a look at Abraham and Sarah welcoming three strangers in Genesis 18: 1-8 in the article Welcoming the Stranger. Hospitality such as this was a cultural obligation and as noted in the article, the Hebrew word actually means bringing in of strangers. As I read the story again, there is a word that struck me in verse two: the word “ran”. In verse two, it says that when Abraham saw the strangers he did not just welcome them in — he ran to welcome them.

This made me think of a firefighter running into a burning building to help someone in need. It also made me think of how often not only do we not run to help a stranger, we often pretend they don’t exist. Especially the homeless people I often see. How many of us pass them by without even looking at them? How often do we do that to people in need in our own congregations or communities?

In Matthew 10:46-52, a blind beggar was crying out to Jesus and the crowd told him to hush, much like our society tells us to ignore the homeless or those in need. Rather than telling the beggar to hush, society tells us we don’t have time, it is not safe. Yet these are our brothers and sisters. In Matthew 10, the author even names the beggar, Bartimaeus. He is a man, not something to be ignored. And Jesus does not ignore him. As Abraham ran to the strangers, Jesus calls for Baritmaeus and heals him.

Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I ran to a stranger, or even called to one. This past weekend, I had a woman cry out to me and ask for spare change. I honestly had no cash on me and so I looked her in the eye and said as much. As I walked away she said, “thank you for responding.” It struck me to my core. I wonder how many times she watches people walk past her, avoiding eye contact, trying to pretend she does not exists.

Abraham article pic 5-26-16It can slow us down to stop and acknowledge that a person is speaking to us, even more so if we try to be hospitable and offer assistance; yet as God’s children are we not called to love our brothers and sisters? Even if right now they are strangers to us?

This week I have been restocking my blessing bags that I keep in my car. These can contain any number of items. In mine I have a snack size bag of chips, soft granola bar, an apple, a small bar of soap, band aids, tooth paste, tooth brush, and a note of encouragement and address to a local shelter. In the winter I add socks and gloves. I keep a few in my car, so when I see someone asking for money I can hand them a bag. When I lived in Washington, DC, I often tried to keep extra granola bars and trail mix in my purse for the same reason. Perhaps, this can be something your congregation can do together. Or if you do not see homeless people on a regular occasion, maybe your congregation can do a food drive for a local food bank and then volunteer at the food bank, and get to know those in your area who are in need. Or begin collecting school supplies for local kids and organize a back pack stuffing day at the end of the summer and a celebration event where the back packs can be handed out.

Hospitality can be uncomfortable. It stretches us out of our comfort zone. Yet, the word of God says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” 2 Timothy 1:7. May the spirit of power, love and discipline manifest in us all as we continue to go to the margins and beyond.