30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. 33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." (NRS)
Steve was a homeless man. One day a person observed Steve going through the dumpsters in search of partially eaten meals abandoned by those who purchased them. This Samaritan offered Steve a meal from the nearby fast-food establishment, which Steve gratefully accepted. At the restaurant our Samaritan purchased the largest meal they offered and left Steve to eat it after they had received the meal. After driving only a few blocks, the Samaritan again thought of Steve and knew that he could buy Steve a few meals, so he returned to the restaurant and offered to buy Steve a gift card. Steve gratefully accepted; never had he asked for money or for anything at all. Steve told his benefactor that he was on the streets because he had cancer, a large tumor visible below the skin on his abdomen verified the claim, and Steve did not want to be a burden on his family but that he had lost his job and couldn’t afford a place to live.
Homelessness is a big topic in the United States recently. Our capitalist economic system would have us believe that these persons have many opportunities to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and they must just be lazy if they aren’t helping themselves. Stories like that of Steve indicate that homelessness is more complex. We can become jaded by persons who do not want to exert the effort to change and live with society or by the persons who are scrounging for money for their next fix or drink. Drug addiction, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, sexual abuse, theft, and hygiene are common issues among the homeless population. Not all persons who are homeless are unemployed. Not all persons who are homeless are addicts, uneducated, or unskilled. There is a disproportionate number of our veterans who return to the United States and end up on the streets because they are disillusioned about what they will encounter when they return.
Christ calls us to be in ministry to all the world through the Great Commission (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”). When we look at Mark 9:35, we get a good image of what that ministry should look like. It is not enough to tell the hungry person to eat their fill; we must give them something to eat. It is not enough to tell the oppressed that they are free to do as they want; we must work to ensure that freedom is real. Christ calls for us to serve others because of our faith. God provides us the resources to make the world a better place, but we have to put those resources to work.
Our series on missional living will look at ways we can serve locally and globally. I hope we can live into Christ’s call, and a bumper sticker I appreciated reading some years ago – Think globally, Act locally!