Changing Lives at the Shelters

Gary Kuziensky’s Message on Sunday, October 29

Waffle Shop is just a couple of weeks away – for those of you who have worked at Waffle Shop – you will remember that Tom Schaffer, after the prayers,  says – I have it on good authority that any moment now Jesus is going to be coming through our front door. Tom doesn’t say Jesus might be coming through our door, but Jesus is coming through our door. There is a big difference between might and is.

A number of years ago, we were conducting a Lenten program that began with silent meditation in the Chapel, followed by a dinner in the Parish Hall, and then followed by Bible study. I was in the Chapel when Dave Bane our former rector called me out to ask a favor. He said he had really messed up – there was this homeless man who had nowhere to sleep for the night. So Dave said he gave him a voucher to stay at the Day’s Inn that used to be on First Street – but Dave said, I forgot to invite the man for dinner.  Dave asked me to go down to the Day’s Inn, find the man – I did not know his name – and invite him to dinner – the reason being, Dave said, that it might be “Him”! My theology then was not everyone was Jesus, but every once-in-awhile someone would show up in a disguise, usually a poor person, to see how we would respond. So I went to the Day’s Inn, found the man and invited someone who might be Jesus to dinner and he accepted. Oh by the way, the man I invited to dinner, his name was Gary.

Barbara Brown Taylor has become one of my favorite authors – I like the way she thinks and how she expresses herself in her books. In her book, Gospel Medicine, talks about the Ascension of Jesus and what we should be doing since Jesus left the planet over 1900 years ago – she says: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” That is what the two men in white robes said to the disciples on the mount called Olivet just outside of Jerusalem. Luke calls them men in white robes, so as not to scare anyone, but you can bet your last nickel that they were angels—angels sent to remind God’s friends that if they wanted to see him again, it was no use looking up. Better they should look around instead, at each other, at the world, at the ordinary people in their ordinary lives, because that was where they were most likely to find him—not the way they used to know him, but the new way, not in his own body but in their bodies, the risen, the ascended Lord who was no longer anywhere on earth so that he could be everywhere instead.” She goes on to say, “It was almost as if he had not ascended but exploded, so that all the holiness that was once concentrated in him alone flew everywhere, flew far and wide, so that the seeds of heaven were sown in all the fields of the earth.”

A few days ago, I got an email from my college classmate, Jack Ridl, who used the word Namaste. I did not recognize the word, so I looked it up. The gesture Namaste is used as a formal greeting among Hindus in South and South East Asia. It is used as both a greeting and a farewell. It is a Sanskrit word and it means, I bow to the Divine in you.   The gesture Namaste represents the belief that God resides within each of us and we should therefore show respect for the other person. For us Christians, it means that if God is within each of us, Jesus is there too along with the Holy Spirit. So now I have moved from someone who might be Jesus to someone who is Jesus – that is a game changer and a life changer. Now I am no longer walking down First Street to invite someone who might be Jesus to dinner, but inviting someone who is Jesus to dinner.

Matthew 25: verses 35 and 36, are at the heart of St Vincent de Paul’s homeless shelter ministry – “For I was hungry and you gave me food (we partner with St Vincent in providing meals), I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink (Kroger is partnering with us in providing drinks), I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Joan Franks from our church volunteers on a regular basis to support the many welcoming  activities) , I was naked and you gave me clothing.” The staff and volunteers at St Vincent de Paul look for Jesus as homeless women, men, and children pass through their doors. They provide assistance, shelter, and hope. This video is a testimony of what happens when people acknowledge the Christ in each other – it is truly a life changing experience for us and for them.