By now you have probably heard about, and maybe even experienced, the outrage regarding the homeless being left out in the cold because the Boutwell Auditorium, which is used as a warming station on cold nights, was being used for the Bernie Sanders rally. Don Lupo, the director for the Mayor’s Office for Citizens Assistance in the City of Birmingham, and the one who has managed the warming station at Boutwell for years, took to his Facebook page to challenge everyone to get involved in being part of the solution instead of just getting upset and looking for someone to blame. As a result of all of this, several churches, shelters, and some city leaders will be attending a meeting on Monday to develop plans for additional warming stations to use when the Boutwell is not available. You can read more about that meeting here. Don Lupo also mentioned on his Facebook page that the Boutwell warming station always needs personal hygiene items for their guests – toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water, etc.
Matthew 25:34-40 – 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Lord Jesus, forgive us for becoming passive and unengaged from the profound needs that exist in our city. Thank You that over the recent years, more of Your Church are being awakened to the needs and are stepping in with sleeves rolled up to help and serve the least of these. Thank You for the many non-profit organizations in our city who have labored tirelessly to address the problems that often cause homelessness, from substance abuse, to mental illness, to abuse at home, to illiteracy and everything in between. But I know I’m guilty of sitting in my pew, listening to people from these organizations talk about what they do, and then walking away feeling good about the two minutes we took praying for them in the service – and leaving it at that. Forgive us, Lord, for leaving it at that. Forgive us for celebrating the amazing cultural opportunities that have come to Birmingham while doing nothing to address the needs of those who are in such desperate places. It cannot be one or the other to fix our city. It must be both. Thank You for using this incident with the political rally this week to open our eyes to the need. I pray that You would not let us drift back off to sleep on this issue again as it fades from our Facebook timelines.
We pray for the men, women, and children who don’t have a roof over their heads, who don’t know from where the next meal will come, who don’t own a coat or shoes or any of the things we take for granted. We pray especially as it’s supposed to snow this weekend that You would provide them warm, safe places to stay. Provide them with opportunities to feel the dignity that most of us take for granted just because we’re human. Give them opportunities to hear the clear message of the Gospel, without being tied to politics or religion. Lord Jesus, You know their need for a Savior is just as profound as it is for any of us. We pray that they would receive Your gift of salvation and that the power of the Gospel would set them free from the prison of addiction and poverty. For those who are mentally ill, we pray that You would equip us to know how to respond to their needs in a way that restores their dignity. Raise them up through the power of the Gospel to be seated with You in the heavenly places.
Forgive us for dismissing them out of our judgmental pride, thinking that they just need to pull themselves together, or get off the drugs/alcohol, or whatever reason we use to absolve ourselves of any responsibility we might feel to help. These are people created in Your image, who are precious to You, and so they should be just as precious to Your followers. Change our perspective, Lord. Compel us with supernatural compassion to get involved. How hard is it to collect new toothbrushes?? Bottled water? How can it be that easy and it still be a need? I think because we’re afraid that if we get involved a little bit, You might call us to get involved in the hard part of minister to the least of these. We pray that Your love would cast out every fear that keeps us from getting involved.
So Father, thank You for Bernie Sanders – well, his rally, anyway. Thank You for using it to highlight a problem so many of us tend to overlook. Out of Your mercy and grace, don’t let us miss the opportunity to be different, to be better ambassadors for the kingdom of God in our city. Let these men, women, and children out there feel the love of Christ – and let it be done through us. Amen.