Friday, April 18, 2014
“To know oneself, is above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against the Truth, and not the other way around.”- Flannery O’Connor
From a USA Today article by Lori Grisham
Someone has recently taken up permanent residence on a park bench outside St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C.
It's "Homeless Jesus," a bronze sculpture by Timothy Schmalz installed in February, which depicts Jesus lying on a park bench under a blanket. His face and hands are covered. His feet, wounded from the crucifixion, are exposed.
"It makes people think about their faith commitment and the plight of the homeless in this country," the Rev. David Buck, St. Alban's minister, told USA TODAY Network.
It's "life-size, interactive, and in keeping with our church's commitment to social justice," he said, noting that the church considers art to be connected to spiritual growth.
The community, which Buck describes as "affluent," has mostly expressed positive reactions to the piece, he says, adding that everyone from atheists to conservative Christians have expressed admiration.
"We wanted to remind ourselves that our faith expresses itself not in beautiful buildings only, but mainly in care for those less fortunate, the marginalized," he said.
A plaque near the sculpture calls the artwork a "visual prayer" for Kate MacIntyre, a member of the church who died in 2007.
A church member gave the statue as a gift in memory of Kate MacIntyre, a former member who died of cancer in 2007. MacIntyre loved public art and helped start art initiatives in the Davidson community, Buck said.
"Homeless Jesus" cost $22,000, but the church did not foot any of the bill, according to Buck.
I guess I just don’t have a Christian heart. Whatever faith I profess must not go deep enough. Because my reaction to the above report was “really?” While I do believe that Christians (and people of all faiths along with ethical atheists and society in general) should do their part to help those who are less fortunate; how much help is enough? And what sort of help should be offered? When does help just become a way of enabling those on a self-destructive path to enjoy a more comfortable ride? And when does help redirect someone to a better life?
There are a lot of causes for homelessness. Many of the homeless have mental problems. There are drug and alcohol abuse issues. And many of these are veterans. A high percentage of kids who grow up in foster care, end up on the street when they are too old to remain in “the system”. There are the teenage runaways and sexually abused. A disproportionate number of LGBT young people end up on the street. (Ironically many of them rejected by Christian families and communities that now buy $22,000 bronze art pieces to remind themselves not to neglect the homeless.)
We can “think about” our “faith commitment” and the “plight of the homeless”. And perhaps thinking about it will make us feel better or feel worse or just feel. We can also do something by providing basic food, clothing and shelter to those in need. In the grand scheme of things it really does not cost us that much to help the homeless and Jesus pretty much commands us to do so. But don’t play the “Jesus was a homeless person” card. Jesus was much more than a person and although He did not make it His home, He owns this planet and all of creation. In this Easter Season, I don’t see Jesus sleeping on a park bench. He has work to do. We all have work to do.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25: 34-40