(This is the first in a week’s worth of “Noon Wine” postings concerning the biblical poor.)
KEY VERSES: (Luke: 13-14) “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
(Matthew 14: 14) “When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.”
My frequent home-away-from-home church, St. Andrew’s Anglican–which I featured a bit in Sunday’s posting–shares breakfast with the area’s homeless folks on the last Wednesday of every month.
Father Juan always makes it a point in the Sunday worship announcements to emphasize that the breakfast isn’t only about the food we cook and share. Just as important as the meal is being in communion with the homeless–meeting their emotional and spiritual needs as well as the food and material needs–and learning what other needs they may have.
“We sit down and eat breakfast with them and listen to them,” Father Juan reminded congregants last Sunday morning, as he always reminds them. “The homeless are hungry for someone to talk to. They are lonely and we need to know them.”
Handing over a plate of hot food and chatting a bit with a homeless person might make a church member feel good about himself, but it’s half-discipleship. Just giving someone a free breakfast is doing a sort of drive-by ministry for the poor. Complete discipleship is ministry with the poor–giving real time and attention to the homeless one that you cook for, eat with and spend time with.
The fullness of discipleship requires that the giver validate the humanity–the very personhood–of one in need.
Serving the poor or homeless requires nothing less, really, than honoring the one who has no place to lay his head and no guarantee of another hot meal any time soon. And never mind, as Jesus said, that “they cannot repay you,” because “you will be blessed” and “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
And never mind the issue of whether the poor or homeless one is deserving of free food and your time.
In healing and feeding the 5,000, Jesus didn’t feel compassion for those “deserving” of healing or feeding. In fact, the puffed-up religious elites that Jesus rebelled against believed that the “lowly” people that Christ stooped down to be with deserved nothing.