There’s an interesting place at the junction of North Blount and East Lane streets in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s not really an official park, but there is access for vehicles, along with trees, picnic tables, and trash cans.
It’s not a pretty location. It sits near a series of derelict homes waiting for renovation, or removal, or demolition – some kind of hope. It’s bordered on one side by a nondescript government building, and on another by the back side of the State Library of North Carolina.
Directly across the street, in full view, is the North Carolina General Assembly, where politicians meet; and where they often pontificate, cast aspersions on the poor, abrogate public responsibility, and roll back social programs.
HOMELESS: I was there late Sunday afternoon with some of my friends from WFPC. We’re part of an unofficial coalition of churches who set up a buffet line each week and offer a hot meal, warm clothing, and another day’s supply of portable food to the homeless who gather in the area.
It’s been cold this weekend, but we still received around 75 guests.
Our leader – Sandie – is super-organized; there were over 30 of us involved, and we all had specific tasks. Consequently everything went smoothly.
A FEW WORDS: I had two jobs. Offer a devotional, then help people with their trays and visit at the tables over supper.
It’s tough to know what to say to a line of hungry homeless people waiting for you to shut up so they can eat. So that’s where I started.
“I know you didn’t line up here in the cold to listen to me talk. But I’ve been asked to say a few words so I’ll make it brief.
“One of my favorite Bible stories comes from John chapter four. Jesus is hanging out at Jacob’s well while his disciples go looking for food. When they come back they find him deep in conversation. They were astonished, the Bible says, that he was speaking with a woman.
“A couple of other things happen, and then we get to the part I want to share with you this afternoon. Listen!
Meanwhile the disciples were trying to get Jesus to eat something. But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples scratched their heads, looked at one-another, and said, ”Did somebody already get Jesus some lunch?’ But Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.’ (John 4:31-34 – author paraphrase)
“My friends and I believe that being here today, with you, is all about doing the will of him who sent us. And we feel grateful to have this opportunity to meet each one of you. So we’re grateful for the food, we’re grateful to know all of you, and we’re deeply grateful that God can nourish every one of us in so many other ways, too.”
Then I offered a short blessing.
GUESTS: I moved from table to table, staying 7-10 minutes with each group, and I had the privilege of chatting with around 25 people.
Mostly, I listened to their stories, and I tried not to sit there with my mouth hanging open in amazement. You can’t make this stuff up.
And I couldn’t in my most vivid imagination have made up the setting, either; leaning in to conversation with a young mother, her seven-month old baby girl swaddled in blankets; there in a dingy park, the state legislature over her right shoulder, and the governor’s mansion over her left.
And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)