Good morning! If you are traveling today, safe travels!!!
Jeremiah 31:10-14New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.
Yesterday the local paper came to talk to us about what has been happening at the church. This past summer, our church leadership decided that if we were really going to live into our mission, we would need to stop kicking people off the property at night. As it was, we had the buildings open from 9am until 10pm every day with coffee and snacks available. So people could hang out all day and have access to bathrooms and other small things we can offer, hygiene kits, laundry soap, and some food. At the CoOp, our mission is to love and serve with all people to restore all of creation to God’s loving embrace. We thought we might give it fully a try.
We had no idea what we were in for. We have been learning exponentially since. A few people took us up on not leaving the property at night. They would find a place to sleep around our grounds outside. Then those folks found sleeping bags and we gave them blankets. A few months ago, some of our regulars (who we now call our everyday congregation) asked if they could put up their tents in between our buildings in the back. We thought we would give that a try. Turns out, there are no bathroom facilities open anywhere in town at night. We added a porta potty. People thought it would get trashed and we would be sorry. It hasn’t been and we have been thanked immensely from people all over.
There are about four tents that are on our property right now and last week our everyday congregation asked for a meeting so we could talk more about giving more boundaries. We thought this was a great idea. The meeting included seven homeless folks and five CoOp staff and it was awesome. Great conversation. Getting to know one another more and encouraging one another.
This brings us to yesterday. The paper called our Director of Development who works most closely with our outreach ministries. She called me to join so that she might have support in the interview. Done. The interview was short and the reporter wanted a picture that didn’t show off the tents but gave a sense of what we were doing. So we ventured out back. Our everyday congregation had told me they had been working on making sure everything was picked up and people’s stuff was contained again (anytime you have stability, you accumulate stuff….we know this:)). After our picture was taken, I was checking out the progress. It looked great.
And then I saw the picture that I have put in our blog today. This sticker was placed so that all who are around could see it but you would have to be in the space, not just passing by. I was really struck by this. In fact, I was downright moved. Here is a group of people who are truly struggling to live in this world. I have gotten to know these folks as folks who are looking towards a better life, for better or for worse. These folks are in survival mode most of the time. Wandering through a transitory people, there were words of encouragement…not swear words, not obscene comments, but a message for anyone who needed it.
Jeremiah’s job, as a prophet, is to do this. He isn’t always popular. He doesn’t always carry the most encouraging message. But today he does. Today he lifts up what will be with God. What does God’s kingdom look like? It will be full of dancing and joy. It will be full of peace, like our everyday congregation yearns for. It will be full of food and peace and bounty.
This seems to carry more weight for me as we enter into Thanksgiving. I am thankful for what I am learning each day from people and hopeful for what Jeremiah cries out will be done.