What a wonderful thing to be able to sleep out under a tree in the middle of the city, especially because it was far away from the cacophony of anger that swirled around City Hall. However, it is not so wonderful to get kicked out of the tiny space behind First Unitarian today by the security guard. Technically he did not work for the church; he was hired by the Montessori school located there. But, they are only able to keep the guard because the church is complacent to it.
It reminds me of the story of the poor widow whose house is being devoured by the Pharisees. At the temple, she gives her money out of her poverty and goes. A cute little story about how much you can give. A good lesson in stewardship, but how often do we think about what happens to that poor widow after she leaves the temple. With no money and no home does she starve to death? Or, does she choose to sell her own fragile flesh in order to survive? Those would have been her only choices at the time.
That is a choice that is often made on these fragile streets. While the women clutch their purses tightly to make sure they are not taken, the men clutch their wallets. So much time and energy is spent controlling and protecting our futures (or so we think). We buy insurance to have assurance that the poor widows fate could never happen to us. I bet the folk who bought insurance for there houses in New Orleans have a story to tell about how all of our preparing cannot protect our precious things or guarantee that our insurance will be honored. I confess that I too am working towards preparing for my future – I am a member of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans (and not just because they support the Welcome Ministry).
We are not asked to prepare for our own futures. We are not asked to prepare for the future of the church. We are not asked to prepare for next years budget. We are asked to prepare the way of GOD(DESS)!
The streets are cold and cruel, the sun is hot. There are few places to rest and my yoke is heavy. As a “missionary to the poor in San Francisco,” as I am called at St. Francis, a “curate with the poor” as I am called at Christ church, I am indeed being with the poor and living the life of a missionary. I do not seek to bring the Gospel to people who do not know God(dess). I seek to affirm the God(dess) that is already with them. To help them to speak the Gospel that they already know. To remind them that they are God(dess)’s beloved. To remind us all that we are all human (saint and sinner) and that we are all dust. I seek to love and be loved (the greatest commandment). Today I think of the words of Maya Angelou who said that: "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope."
Today I remember the birthday of Jen Rude who is a member of the ECP Roster awaiting call and I pray for all of the members of the ECP who are without call. I pray for those who have ministry jobs and are sometimes even called pastors, but the churches they work at refuse to extend them a call and ordain them. I pray for those pastors on the ECP roster who have to work 2nd and 3rd jobs in order to keep the doors of their church open. I pray for those churches who could no longer afford a male pastor, so they looked at hiring a woman. When they could not afford to call a female pastor they looked into calling an ECP pastor.
Perhaps it is the pastors without a call that are the true homeless pastors.
Franciscan Benediction (originally posted at National Council of Churches) and found on the street during my retreat - I added the (dess) for my friends at herchurch.org who called me. I know that the Goddess is not used to being in parenthesis, but I do it in the Spirit of welcoming those whose understanding of God is masculine:
May God(dess) bless you with discomfort at:
Easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships—
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God(dess) bless you with anger at:
Injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God(dess) bless you with tears to shed:
For those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May God(dess) bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world;
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done. AMEN