Yesterday I help with the Ventura County Homeless Count. The geographical area for counting that was assigned to me didn’t have too many people in it yesterday…maybe because it was so cold that people weren’t yet out on the streets. Yes, it was cold and we were counting (interviewing) people who had no place to sleep the night before. It is a sad state of affairs. There are many reasons for homelessness and thus need to be many solutions. I know that many people dedicate their lives to helping in any way they can. Participating in the count (for 2nd year in a row) reminded me that we need to do more and that we need to actually “See” the people who seem to be invisible as we go about our daily lives.
One of the people I spoke with was a young man who was sitting in front of a fast food restaurant with a sign. You are familiar with this as we are all familiar with this. This young man told me that he wanted a job, but that nobody would give him a job because he was homeless. “So here I am (pointing at sign), I don’t want to do this, I just want a f—n job!” I had no adequate words while I also fear that things will get worse.
Sunday I will be preaching on “The Beatitudes” or blessings that Jesus offered at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. According to these, this young man is blessed, as are those who advocate for him and all the homeless. May we all begin to live and act as if he truly were blessed so that he would then know it in this day.
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:1-12
These “blessings” are radical because then, and now, to “be blessed” is often equated with having an easy life…having riches…having power. The blessings that Jesus pronounces here are for those who struggle in all kinds of ways.
In seeing the direction our country is heading I feel the “blessed are the poor in spirit” in ways I’ve never felt before. My faith tells me that we are to be advocates for the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner, the outcast. These groups are explicitly mentioned numerous times in scripture. Yet, we as a nation are about to officially turn our backs on these people and I am saddened.
As the words of Jesus tell me, I am also blessed and it is that blessing received that is leading me to speak up, to march, to protest, to call, to write…the join the resistance to what betrays my faith as well as the founding values of my country. It is this being blessed by Jesus that will help me (and others) to stand strong even when attacks come and guess what…we’ll just be more blessed…Jesus said so!