A Prayer for the homeless

As I get to work each morning, I enter the Post-Dispatch and take the stairs on the south-side of the building. The stairwell includes large windows that look out towards the St. Patrick Center and Interco Plaza. The St. Patrick Center is a provider of services for the homeless and some of these homeless had taken to camping in this little plaza right outside the center.

One day last fall I stopped on the second floor window to peer out onto this sight and say a quick prayer for the people living on the plaza. As is typical of my prayers, I didn’t include any specifics, just that they would know God and see that He loves them.

Imagine my surprise when, the next morning I walked up the same steps to find that the little plaza was swept clean. It looked like no one had ever “lived” there.

“Whoa,” I thought, “…God, what did you do?”

A bit later it in the day I realized that it was all the talk on the local radio waves. Turns out, some rather insensitive park rangers had orders to move the residents out of the park and had simply thrown away all the belongings of these homeless individuals. The homeless folks were even there while the rangers tossed everything in the compacting trash truck. Well, needless to say, there was outrage across the board, including the Mayor’s office. I felt sure the outrage would turn into something positive for these people and felt confident that God was looking out for them.

From today’s Post:

ST. LOUIS — The two men once bounced from one downtown park to another, sleeping in tents or under cardboard in relative anonymity.Then last fall, Tremayne Gates and Clint Smith briefly became the center of a debate over how the city should treat its homeless and their possessions. …read the rest of the story -

Good Friday

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”

“I am thirsty.” Our Lord, the creator of the universe, was thirsty. I don’t even pretend to understand the fullest meaning of that.

I do know what it’s like to be thirsty; I was thinking though, have I ever been really thirsty? I think profound thirst would be an entirely different experience than most of us have ever imagined.

But here, beaten and crucified some of Jesus’ last words were “I am thirsty?” Are those words out of place? I mean, isn’t the physical pain He’s enduring just off the charts? Well, if we could imagine some of our weakest moments, maybe some acute sickness or pain, I think any of us could see ourselves uttering what otherwise might be considered irrational statements.

But, even here, in this very human moment, in the very same sentence the Scriptures tell us there’s more. “…so that the Scripture would be fulfilled…” So, now I’m imagining Jesus rationally thinking, “Ok, now before I die, I have to remember to say ‘I’m thirsty’ so the Scriptures will be fulfilled.”

No.

Now I realize that He isn’t fulfilling the scriptures, He is the fulfillment. His actions don’t fulfill God’s plan, He is God’s plan. He didn’t carry around a checklist: “OK, let’s see, suffering servant, check, read from Isaiah in the synagogue, check, ride a donkey into Jerusalem, check. Mutter ‘I’m thirsty’ right before I die, check!”

No, Jesus is, as philosophers like to say, “The thing itself.”

So, He was really thirsty, and He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures; both at the same time. That just says it all; human and divine.

Do I know what that means? No, I don’t. But, I know that these things exist. I know that humans exist and I know that the divine exists. And I know that they were not created apart from each other.

It is me that has driven a wedge between the two. It is my sin that keeps them apart. And, it is my sin that drove Jesus to this moment of agonizing thirst.

Jesus is thirsty and I can’t save him. He is up there because of me. Lord, forgive me; I wish it was just a matter of giving you some sour wine to drink. But you’re asking so much more. Tonight, I can scarcely take it in. Seeing you up there, thirsty, crying…I just want it to be over.