I had the pleasure of joining Agent Z’s kid sister (my teenaged step daughter) in the park over the weekend when she threw a party for Jesus and specifically invited Lubbock’s street homeless to join her. I am so impressed with the kids from this house; Secret Agent Kid Sis hosted about forty people in her open heart. This kid spent weeks planning, working and saving AND raising money, and then purchasing supplies and preparing them. The day before, she and a friend made nearly 70 sandwiches. She asked for my help and guidance in getting word out, and I called on Agent Mamma DJ, who managed to get the event announced to the hundred or so people at the Ave O soup kitchen ministry.
Secret Agent Kid Sister featured foot-washing in her party. She actually took a basin and water, knelt before a homeless man, and ceremonially washed his feet in a display of servant-humility, and thus obeyed Jesus’ call on her life. This after making all the preparations I listed above for – well, really – weeks. I cannot overstate how thrilled I am that one of the kids from my house (and this is actually the second one) purposely goes to the place of shame, pain, and despair in our community to bear the image of God there – and has specifically chosen to do so amid Lubbock’s street homeless population. Very few kids in high school even consider what she did, but she actually did it! My kids are catching on (Ps. 127:3-5).
We had a special time in the park. So many personal/spiritual touching moments happened that there is no way I can recount them all. I will tell the highlights that I personally participated in or witnessed. I saw a bent old woman shuffle down the street with a young man several blocks away as I was giving rides to attendees. I thought the woman appeared so fragile and bent that I was sure it was a challenge for her to cross the street, yet I wished she could make it to our picnic in the park about six blocks away. I did not think she even knew about it – much less that she would be able to get there. But forty-five minutes later, she showed up!
Another serendipity was when I met Matt Pickett’s mom and spent time grieving his passing and praying with her. (I posted on his passing a few months ago.) She showed me a slide show they had compiled for his memorial service; I told her stories about how he would boldly go spread the Gospel message of Jesus in dark corners of this town where neither I nor any other Christian ministers I know had gone before. We wept together, a mother mourning the loss of her son who found me, one of his many – mostly unknown – contacts who had been forever blessed by his humble work.
While we lounged around on blankets and mats in the shade, I began singing church songs and got the group to join in with me. I always lead Jesus Loves Me and Amazing Grace because EVERYBODY knows the first verse of both of those songs by heart. And this inspired Agent K to lead us in a round of He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands.
Think about that. When you host a Luke-14 Jesus Party in the park with all the beggars, the lame, the crippled, and broken people that the world mostly passes by, if you can get a lady from the streets like Agent K to lead a round of He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, you know Jesus has come! That was a serendipity of the first order. Hearts were made merry, and people began sharing testimonies.
This singing and group participation afforded me a chance to share God’s Word. I chose to go right to Fat Beggars foundational passage, II Kings 6:24 – 7:20. I did not read the passage, but I recited a paraphrase of it and highlighted the point that the beggars there take the Good News of God to Samaria, the city under siege. I sensed that I was connecting spiritually with this group on the grass under the shade trees with that empowering idea. This humble congregation began to see themselves as vital and important in God’s plans. I then linked those thoughts to the party passage in Luke 14 as well.
Then I led the group in prayer. And this was the point when my sense of spiritual connection was really confirmed. I offered my daily prayer, not only for them, but WITH them for the first time. I have mentioned it here on the blog before; I am referring to the part of my daily prayers where I pray for street people by name. Where I ask God to express himself through them so that they will bear his image, and then at the sight of God in them may the mountains bow down, the valleys stand up, and the crooked places straighten out – like Isaiah told us in the days of old… That at the sight of God in them, may the whole economy turn upside down and shake it all out on the ground, and start it all over again just like God did using those beggars of old at the gates of Samaria. And then, finally, that at the sight of God in them, may his Kingdom come and his will be done, in Lubbock LIKE it is in heaven! And then that is when I asked God to do this through Thomas, Mark, Jerry, Jason… and on and on and on.
My prayer list covers almost 100 people. And as I recited my list while offering this prayer in the presence of Jesus and the “least of these” brothers and sisters, I could hear people gasp as their name came up. And then one sister interrupted me adding her name – I think she feared her name was not on my list (and it wasn’t, but it is now!).
Yeah. We connected like that!
And we lounged around eating and drinking Secret Agent Kid Sister’s lunch there in the park until four o’clock in the afternoon. It was getting quite hot. We reached the triple digits, and I was getting exhausted. I started feeling like I wanted to go home and get some relief from this heat and the hard ground, and then I remembered that I was out there offering relief as I was thinking of getting my own. My friends there don’t have the same option, and I felt selfish for even thinking of it.
In the end, though, we were running out of food, and almost three quarters of the group of guests who attended had drifted away by that time. So, Secret Agent Kid Sister began giving away the remains of her food stash to anyone who wanted double portions or who wanted to save some for later, and we finally packed up to leave.
We offered one more prayer before leaving, and it was one of thanxgiving on the one hand but also for those who did not attend on the other. The thing is this… as we discussed Luke 14 and Jesus’ parables about going to parties and hosting them, we noted that an important segment of invitations went unfulfilled. We too had invited many, but few came. (Actually with about roughly forty over the course of the event (possibly more), we felt it was a blessed success, really.) In fact, a number of important friends – shepherd types – from church had been invited who did not come.
To be fair, I should point out that the invitation went out late in the game, just earlier that morning. Some people did not check their messages until it was over. And that needs to be noted. So this was not a judgment against them on our part, though Jesus seems to leave that notion open to his hearers. Nevertheless, for whatever reason they did not attend, whether “good” or lame, they had missed a chance to share a picnic with Jesus. So we prayed for them in hopes that they will come next time.