Sunday’s Scripture ~ II Corinthians 5:1-10
My friend Hugh Hollowell is the pastor of Love Wins Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina. You may have heard of Hugh as he and his church received national media coverage towards the end of last year due to what was affectionately (?) called “Biscuit-Gate 2013”. You see, Love Wins’ is a ministry of presence and pastoral care for the homeless and at-risk population in Raleigh. During Biscuit-Gate the city of Raleigh tried to arrest the staff and volunteers and Love Wins Ministries for distributing food to their homeless and at-risk brothers and sisters. The city of Raleigh is now working with Love Wins in providing space for and fostering dignity among the persons that are fed – physically, spiritually, and relationally. It’s truly beautiful and an example of the Kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven.
Thank you, Hugh, for all the ways you and your staff serve these our neighbors. And thank you, friends and members of Love Wins, for your patience with the rest of us as we slowly and continually learn what it means to actually be church.
As I read the Scripture passage for this week my mind quickly moved to Hugh and the friends he serves. I wondered how someone who experiences homelessness on a daily basis would read and interpret a text that talks about leaving an earthly home for a heavenly home…when they are without an earthly home all together. No physical structure exists for them and if one does it is on a temporary basis until another roof can be secured. Is this passage even relevant?
So I asked Hugh. And his answer is powerful.
He said initially this community would interpret this passage as “other-worldly” – as in “things will be better when I die.” Hugh’s challenge – and I would wager his delight – is to transform this interpretation. I would call the initial interpretation as “escapist theology” – I have to get away from here to get to there because there is better than here and I will be happier there. Hugh wants to craft this interpretation into something new. Hugh wants to expose the community he serves to a liberation theology – that God has a preferential and special compassion for the poor (which clashes harshly with the message his folks consistently hear) and that liberation is essential to salvation as salvation applies to the whole person, not just his or her spiritual needs.
From what are the folk that Love Wins Ministries serves being liberated? The idea that they are less than. The idea that they have to accomplish X Y Z ad infinitum to have worth. The idea that they have to endure only hardships in this life and once they get to the resurrection, life will be better.
No, my friends, no. You are more. You are worthy. You can experience the goodness of the resurrection, of the house built with eternal hands and not human ones, right now.
How many times will Hugh – will I – will you – have to say these words? Affirm this reality for those in our lives who continue to doubt? Continue to question? Perhaps until the time that we all enter into that heavenly dwelling place. But that is our task. To teach one another, to be present with one another until these lessons are written entirely, wholly, completely on all of our hearts. Then the time of teaching will have ended because we all will know.
We do not have to flee this place or wait an undetermined about of time for things to get better. What we have to do is tune our eyes, tune our behaviors, tune our hands in rhythm with the movement of our God to reveal the construction of our heavenly home within our midst.
It is hard to do. It is necessary to do.
And it is our joy to do.
Prayer: “O God of every nation, of every race and land, redeem your whole creation with your almighty hand; where hate and fear divide us, and bitter threats are hurled, in love and mercy guide us, and heal our strife worn world. Keep bright in us the vision of days when war shall cease, when hatred and division give way to love and peace, till dawns the morning glorious when truth and justice reign, and Christ shall rule victorious o’er all the world’s domain.”* Amen.
*”O God of Every Nation,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 435.