He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.’ (Lk. 4:17-18)
One of church’s receptionists buzzed to tell me that she had a woman on the phone that demanded to talk with the pastor. I asked her to put the woman through.
The moment I said hello, she asked, “What kind of church are you running down there?”
I said, “Ma’am, would you please tell me why you’re asking that question?”
She said, “I’ve never seen a church attract so many homeless people. They’re dirty. Some don’t pull up their pants. I even saw someone going to the bathroom in a bush. Again, what kind of church are you running down there?”
I said, “Ma’am, we believe we’re running the church that Jesus calls us to run.” She said, “Where did you get that idea?” I said, “From scripture.” She said, “No scriptures I’ve ever heard about. Which ones?”
I began to recount the words Jesus shared in today’s reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Was the lady persuaded? No.
When I invited her to join a bible study with some of the homeless, the conversation ended.
What kind of church are we running down there? Every church member needs to ask this question about her or his community.
The lady was offended that we made room for the homeless and hungry. She was appalled that we welcomed those who may have needed a bath, or those who were not fastidious about their clothes, or those who didn’t search out more private bathrooms.
If we run the church to suit our sensibilities, the folks I’ve just described may make us uncomfortable. But here’s the rub. We’re not called to make the church comfortable for us. We’re called to make it welcome for all.
I encourage us to ask the question that lady asked me: What kind of church are we part of? Because Jesus says that He was anointed to “bring good news to the poor,” we must know and accept that He anoints us to do the same.
- Does your community make room for all? If so, how? If not, do you think Jesus could be calling you to do something about that?
- If you are uncomfortable reaching out to the poor, what would help you to work through your discomfort?
- When we do reach out to the poor, it is important to remember that we all have places of poverty, want, and need. What are those places you carry around?