So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. – Romans 15:7 (CEB)
My goal today (besides parent-teacher conferences for youngest and finishing my sermon, which youngest put on our “schedule” for today) is to finish planning and shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. With several gluten-free family members, I tried out a couple of new recipes a few weeks ago. Yesterday, we were discussing where to move furniture to fit in another table and where everyone will sleep. Over the next 48 hours, I will spend many of my waking hours preparing for a meal that will probably take us less than 30 minutes to eat.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, we spend a lot of time ensuring an abundance of food and plenty of space.
But this morning, I read an article about feeding the homeless in Los Angeles. The article highlighted the convergence of circumstances that has led to a large and increasing homeless population. As in other cities, organizations are providing meals and other services to the homeless. The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has been serving meals daily since 1987. Needless to say, people show up for these meals.
And that’s the problem. But it’s not a new problem.
Many people saw them leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things. Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”
He replied, “You give them something to eat.” – Mark 6:33-37 (CEB)
Like many other cities, Los Angeles is considering creating an ordinance to prohibit feeding the homeless in certain areas – primarily residential areas and popular public spaces. They want to send the people away. While 200 people came for a meal, 75 people sat in a living room (really, probably with snacks) and discussed the problem. What if this effort went into discussing a solution? What if the hours and effort we spent planning to feed a dozen people Thanksgiving dinner was spent finding a way to feed 200 for the next week or month?
Would I like it if homeless people were squatting in the woods across from my house or using my yard for a bathroom? No, I wouldn’t. It would make me uncomfortable, and I would worry about the safety of my kids. But my comfort and concern for safety aren’t actually Jesus’ first concern. Instead, Jesus’ concern seem to be that we welcome one another in the same way Jesus welcomed us, have compassion on those in need, and give hungry people something to eat.
Jesus said that when we throw a dinner party we should invite those who can’t repay us (Luke 14:16-24). I’m convicted today because everyone who will be sitting at my table would certainly welcome me at theirs. I’m convicted today because I will always find a way to fit one more person around my table but throw my hands up when I see a multitude of anonymous hungry faces. I’m convicted today because I will think more about figuring out how to cook all this food so that it’s done at the same time then I will about people who are trying to figure out whether they will be able to eat at all.
I’m convicted today because I don’t know if I’ll feel just as convicted tomorrow and whether these feelings will turn into action or just be stored away and shoved to the back of my mind like leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner.
Jesus asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” – John 21:17 (CEB)