A SUNDAY TO REMEMBER HOMELESS PEOPLE!
Build people for homes;
build houses with hearts
and may love make a home….
Isaiah 58: 6-12 and Matthew 25: 34-40
When the disciples asks Jesus where he is living he says, “come, and you will see!” Have you ever wondered what they saw? I wonder whether they crowded into a tiny bedsitter with a shared bathroom down the corridor or whether he was sofa surfing, as they say, at Martha and Mary’s neat little terrace house. I somehow doubt it was a five bed mansion that he lived in, but it could have been a shop doorway or under a tree.
It is a wonderful introduction to disciples who started following “the Lamb of God” and they are shown the answer to their first question, but it’s not written into the story. They spent a day with Jesus at the place where he was staying, but we are none the wiser. I still want to know where Jesus was living.
A teacher asked her class of primary children where God lived. One said, “up there,” and pointed to heaven. Another child said, “in here,” and pointed to her heart. Our own answer to that question will dictate how we live out our faith and whether people can find God’s house on earth or must wait until they knock on heaven’s door. Lord, let me in please!
I believe the child who pointed to her heart has also answered the first question that is fundamental to our faith and the disciples will find that Jesus lives wherever life takes him! Unlike foxes and birds of the air who have holes and nests he has nowhere to lay his head because his ministry is needed anywhere and everywhere by everyone. He lives on the mountainside, in the valley, in a garden, in the house of two sisters, on a cross and in a tomb, but most importantly the disciples are being led to his home in the heart of people.
The disciples are being told that if they want to know where Jesus is living then follow him and they will find out! It’s the home of Our Father, in the heart of the children, because we are God’s temple and the Spirit lives within us. (1 Corinthians 3: 16) The home of the Holy Spirit is in us and it’s that presence that will make the dry bones of our human house into a home of living flesh. ( Ezekiel 38).
As we are encouraged to reflect on the number of homeless people in the country this weekend I can’t help but think of the homeless Father and Son who are walking the streets with no place to lay their head and knocking on doors asking to be let in. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with them, and them with me.” (Revelation 3: 20)
It must be so frustrating for people who have worked with homeless people for many years to see the numbers rising year by year, but building houses isn’t the answer unless we are building homes where love can dwell and all can safely live. The answer to the continuing housing crisis isn’t, and I don’t think it ever has been, to build more houses and flats because even with walls and doors people need more than a roof over their head.
People make the home so if they are not strong and valued the place they live can fall apart, so wood and stones are only a home if the flesh and bones have a heart that brings the warmth of love into the building. Home is where the heart is, but if the heart is left out in the cold the residents will feel homeless. A house is where people live, but a home is where love is found.
A woman was shopping in Birmingham when a man sat on the pavement politely asked whether she had any loose change. She was all dressed up in the finest clothes, with extravagant jewellery and expensive make-up while he was wearing a worn-out coat with holes in his shoes and his hair hung long and dirty on his shoulders. They looked worlds apart, but were neighbours in adversity because they were both HOMELESS.
Oh, she lived in a five bedroom house with all the luxuries that money can buy and he slept on a five star bench with the sky for a roof, but they were both locked in prisons where love was absent and wealth and poverty had taken control.
There are people who live in beautiful houses, but have no home and people who have no house but are at home where they are because home is where the heart is and the heart is the home of love.
Build a house with a roof and walls and give a bed with a pillow for their head will on their own never be a home unless the people are built with the strength of love. I have seen so many people abandoned in a house with poor health, no job, no money, no furniture and no support and so they never know what it’s like to have a home. So when I was working with homeless young people in 1990 it wasn’t for new houses that I campaigned without the resources that make a home. I say the same today. Home is where the heart is and the heart is the home of love.
A roof doesn’t do it if the walls are damp and health is bad or the worries too many because there is no job to pay the rent, put food on the table and care for the children. A bed with a pillow for a head isn’t enough when nights are long and sleepless through worry and fear of anger and violence or a knock on the door from the bailiffs.
Yes, I am concerned for the thousands without a roof over their head, but there are so many more squatting in an abandoned building, sleeping on the floor of a friends house or making the best of a caravan or four in a bed in some cramped little flat. There are even more who have a house with a roof and walls, but can’t call it home because they are abandoned without any hope of a job that will pay the bills, restore their health so they can build a home where love dwells!
I encourage the Church to respond on Homeless Sunday but not by demanding more houses as if that is the justice God seeks. What we are called to do is ‘build people for the houses so they can make a home where love dwells’ not to have a house with no heart and still feel lost and homeless.
I remember visiting one of the residents of the hostel I was managing when he was in prison. He gave me a lot of abuse when I saw him and I left sadly rejected. A few days later I received a letter he had written from his prison cell saying how sorry he was for how he spoke to me, but he had never known such love and didn’t know how to deal with it. Love made him angry, but without it people remain in a very dark place and as christians “we are the light for the world.”
When people have a house they need others to show them “how to switch the light on” so that it can become a home. As Isaiah says, when our light breaks forth like the dawn healing will quickly appear….. Our ministry is to provide the shelter AND to share our food and make sure homeless people have the resources they need. We build PEOPLE so they can furnish houses with love so they can become homes!
Yes, we need the houses but we can’t put people under a roof and expect it to be like a home if they are still burdened with worry and fear of violence or debt or feelings of being unloved. Our ministry is not in making demands of governments to act, but for us to act to open doors so that Jesus can make a home in people’s hearts where his presence can build them up.
The disciples found out where Jesus lived and it was wherever he was welcomed — and where he was welcomed the Father was also welcomed. So my house is where love lives and that is in my heart so that is where I welcome you to come and find the warmth of God’s presence. God is love and love is the furniture that makes a home. Amen