(What follows is a slightly edited copy of one of my street bulletins that I used to circulate among the homeless and stash in songbooks at various churches, stash in cases of beer at the liquor store, stash in library books and in books on the shelves at religious bookstores. And since last night marked the first real seasonal cold front of this Fall, it seems reprinting this copy here now would be timely.)
Year 2 April 21, 2015 Vol. 43
The Fat Beggars’ Spot
A Revolutionary Rag
Dear Pastor Bates,
In this letter, I want to tell you how I really feel.
That whipping wind last night had a bite in it.
Man, you are the pastor of the church. You know, the Body of Christ – my best friend! (Jesus is my best friend, right?)
So, you are the pastor, the head of the church where Jesus is the… hmmm… wait… This is complicated isn’t it? No. St. Paul says the Christ is the HEAD of the church (Col. 1:18). Yeah. That’s right. Perhaps you took the wrong seat at the party (Luke 14:8). So why am I talking to you?
Well, apparently because someone down there thought you should have the keys and the door should be locked. But you know what? It ain’t your house. It belongs to Jesus. How can you put a lock on Jesus? What gives you the right? Who do you think you are?
My brothers and sisters slept outside on the streets last night. We slept in alleys, parks, tents, tarps, under blankets, under awnings, under bushes, under “No Trespassing” signs, and a hundred other places we don’t belong. We were a flock scattered to the night.
And you are our pastor. You are the gate-keeper. This happened on your watch.
Pastor…? hmmm… That word means shepherd, right?
Now, let’s just think about this a minute.
My brothers and sisters are your sheep. You are the shepherd. The flock was scattered to the night as you slept in a nice bed and kept a lock on the door down at God’s house.
Now, I gotta say, Pastor Bates, me and my brothers and sisters are a sinful lot. But we come to you looking for the love of Jesus, and we just ain’t seeing it. If you are sleeping in a comfortable bed…. Wow! For a guy to do that and be called Pastor seems like a classic case of MISSING THE MARK to me. I mean, I am just spit-balling here, but Is that what Jesus does? Gotta verse for that?
I got one for you, Pastor Bates. Go look at the story Jesus tells about the doorkeeper not doing his work when the Master of the House returns unannounced (Mark 13:34-46). Yeah, Pastor Bates, don’t be caught sleeping with the keys in your pocket when the Lord comes. Perhaps you will be embarrassed if you are caught pastorbating when the Master returns!
Tell you what. Consider this:
Let’s just say that Jesus claims those people sleeping in the streets ARE HIM (Matt. 25:40), and that he is speaking through us to you. His message is simple: BEHOLD I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK. IF YOU OPEN UP, I WILL COME IN AND EAT WITH YOU!!! (Rev. 3:20).
Here is what you are missing:
In Luke 14, Jesus talks about a party put on by a rich guy. None of the rich guy’s friends came. So he told the party-planner to go out and get the people off the streets – from under the bushes and in the alleys (& under “No Trespassing” signs) – and COMPEL them to come in to party.
I bet they made quite a mess. But that’s what God’s love looks like: a mess. (Ever see His Son hanging on a cross? That was His messy love!) But you know what else? It is a lot of fun too.
This old world has been dividing up people for a long old time – rich/poor, black/white, insiders and outsiders. But, I have personal experience with street people and with opening church house doors. And I gotta say, every time the door gets opened, people find their way in. This really ain’t complicated at all. It’s quite simple really.
I know you wanna complicate it with your worldly wisdom – like you find in that book, When Helping Hurts (btw its message ain’t in the Bible) – but since the only thing that really gets hurt at this party is your way of life, let’s consider it a good thing and not try to outsmart God. And anyway, you are just as welcome to join the party as anyone else Jesus would invite.
Hope to see you there.