Jesus blesses the homeless from a place where they can see and hear him. On the street, face to face, eye to eye, from, “some flat, level ground (Like 6:17).” Every Tuesday, Operation Nghtwatch participates in a community dinner church. We meet in a parking garage that is literally in the middle of downtown Seattle. As hot entrees and desserts are served out of chaffing dishes, the invitational hospitality of Christ and his love are shared. I begin each meal with prayer and a short story about Jesus. The Bible is often communicated as a book of morality and rules. Our homeless friends often assume they deserve poverty because of their moral failing. “God is punishing me because of all my bad choices.” No one chooses to be abandoned and abused. Trauma that leads people to the street and keeps them there is often seen as part of God’s judgment and wrath. Reading the Bible with people on the street reveals the centrality of God’s care for the marginalized and social outcasts of our city. The story of Jesus is good news to our unhoused friends. “God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you! God will bless you hungry people. You will have plenty to eat! God will bless you people who are crying. You will Laugh (Luke 6:20-21).” Jesus promises abundance, belonging, and joy to the poor.
Our kitchen is closed for the Sunday meal, and I let everyone know we will be having pizza. My friends show up after navigating multiple bus transfers, daylight savings time, and the rain. I usually order a variety of pizza but tonight I decided to get eighteen large peperoni. Marcos comes through the line and declines. He only wants to eat the salad. A volunteer apologizes and I feel terrible. I don’t have coffee tonight and wonder who the first person will be to complain. No one seems to care. John senses my self-loathing and jokingly asks, “doesn’t the Bible say it’s a sin to not have any coffee”? I give the Christ Story and people are genuinely engaged and listening. The stories of Christ are the livable stories of the Bible. The words contained in Scripture are not fragmented bits of information, but the real physical presence of Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, Scripture sets in motion the story of God’s creation, covenant, salvation, and redemption. The merging of the divine word with the human speech act of proclamation invites participation and conversation with the sacred. The hospitality of Scripture welcomes all to the journey of restoration and renewal. The word of God is not a possession to be policed or controlled. The word “liturgy” literally means “work for the people” or “public service.” Reading Scripture in public is an act of community service, inviting conversation and dialogue. Jesus doesn’t make speeches.
After I share the story of Christ and pray, we eat more pizza. People continue to wander in, finding momentary respite and refuge. I apologize to Marcos for not having a vegetarian pizza option. He hugs me and says, “you give me more than food, the Word, the Word is why I come to the dinner”! The Word of God creating possibilities, “becoming flesh, and dwelling among us (John 1:14).” Scripture declaring to the lonely, outcast, and stranger that the kingdom of God is yours.