This week I read that the local homeless shelter has been denied the possibility of using a larger building they own to increase the number of shelter beds and have enough space, in addition, to provide much-needed programming, like life skills, for instance. One of the reasons, in addition to the fear of crime, is the threat to landowner property values.
Now you are going to get really mad at me, and I just might make a few enemies this time.
For a nation which purports to be a Christian nation, I see very little Christianity at work. Yes people go to church, people go to Bible studies, people help in soup kitchens and shelters and, go to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild, and do other good works. We pray. We make donations to charitable organizations.
But when it comes to putting our property values, our income, our safety on the line, not in my back yard.
Dear friends, property values are not a Christian value.
A Christian nation would put everything they had on the line to serve the poor, including, and most especially, the so-called undeserving poor. We would become servants of drug users, pimps and prostitutes. We would open our neighborhoods to those who choose to give their whole lives to being servants of those who just plain are not able to get it together to be like us, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to hold down a job, to stop drinking.
And while I'm at it, a Christian nation would say to others, "We don't own this country, this land. Y'all come. And forget about having to learn English. Because one of the cornerstones of Christianity is hospitality, we will learn your languages, in order to be more hospitable."
In a Christian nation there would be no Hispanic jokes, no racist jokes, no "blonde bimbo" jokes.
Tomorrow, in accord with the request of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut for the churches in the diocese to preach sermons that raise awareness of Connecticut's part in slavery and the slave trade, and on racism, I will be preaching a sermon based on Jesus's words, "If you would be first in the kingdom, you must become last and servant of all...If you would be great, you must become a servant, a slave of all."
It's a perfectly all right, bog standard sermon I'll be preaching. But to really say what I believe the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ is about, it would have to include what I have written above.
But I won't do that. I don't think the people of this country can take this truth, that as much as we Christians are good people, who worship God and give for the relief of the poor, this nation is selfish and greedy. Until we become the servants of those we think are less than we are, of those we think are invading our land, of those we know are working the system, there will be no health in us.
And that includes me.
Next week we will begin a worship ministry in the open air, for the benefit of those who live on the streets, those whose mental illness might make them unlikely to want to come inside a building where they don't know anyone, and those who might need the opportunity to come and go as they please without being afraid they will be seen as impolite, to say the least.
It is called Worship for All People, and as far as I am concerned, this is a new "church" we are starting, for if my dream comes true, there will times for Bible study, times for fellowship, times even for these the least and lost to do for others in their turn. I'm putting out feelers to various people and places to partner in providing programs and other services. And as God is my witness, these buildings over which I have been given oversight so long as I am Priest in Charge are going to become good news.