Posted on Wed, Aug 5, 2009
Rev. Jim’s sermon title “A Message of Radical Welcome”
Link to this Sunday's sermon: “A Message of Radical Welcome”
I want to share with you from my heart about an issue that has jumped out at me and has captivated my thinking for several days. I have, for several years, thought of Gainesville as a welcoming and safe place. I was thrilled to see this city endorse the fact that Equality IS Gainesville’s Business during the recent election. And perhaps partially because of that, I am extremely disappointed about what I am reading about the way we deal with homeless people here. It troubles me deeply to read that Gainesville is near the top of the list of unfriendly cities when it comes to homeless (poor) people. As you are aware, if you’ve heard me, that runs counter to the Gospel that I embrace and try to live by. I want to suggest to us that no matter what our city leaders say, it is not a crime to be poor, it is not a crime to be homeless, it is not a crime to experience a period of intense need in one’s life. As a matter of fact, if we take a careful look at the Gospels, we quickly observe that Jesus showed extreme preference for the poor, the homeless, those in most need, and for underdogs.
Let me be clear, I know the difference between a person who is really in need and one who is running a scam. I want the city to address people who are behaving badly. I have handed food to a person who quickly put it down and picked up his sign again as other cars approached. I’m sure I’ve given a little change for a sandwich to someone who has gone and purchased something else with it. And it is also clear to me that I am called to give when I can, what I can.
These days I’m trying not to worry so much about what the recipient does with my gift. I’m accepting the call to give and I’m allowing the recipient to be responsible for what s/he does with the gift. I’m also being careful. As a rule, I never give out cash. I may give a sandwich or buy a bag of groceries or something like that, and I don’t give cash. That’s part of my responsibility. And I continue to give because that is what God has called me to do. Each time I give a little something, I ask God to bless the recipient in every way possible and I give thanks for being able to give.
So, while our city lives into the reputation as unfriendly, I call on us to be a refuge. Let’s help whomever we can, however we can, in the best ways possible. Let’s do it carefully, let’s doing it mindfully, let’s do it responsibly and let’s do it in ways that reflect the bounty with which God blesses all of us as individuals and together. Jesus loves underdogs, let’s live into it.
I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon. God bless you.