By Alan Bean
Was Jesus homeless? Yes, he was. In Matthew 8 we read: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
And then there is that startling passage in Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Jesus of Nazareth was an itinerant preacher, walking the dusty roads of Palestine with an odd assortment of men and women. He never worried where his next meal was coming from, partly because his friends provided food and drink for the journey, and partly because he learned how to live with hunger.
So it is entirely appropriate that St. Alban’s Episcopal Church should depict Jesus as a homeless man wrapped in a blanket in a piece of public art. And it is also appropriate that a woman driving by should pick up her cell phone and call the police. Jesus didn’t go to the cross for identifying with the poor . . . but it was certainly part of the mix. Had he identified with the wealthy, he would have avoided the cross and his message would have been the mirror image of what we read in the Gospels.
In his book, Doing Justice, Congregations and Community Organizing, Dennis Jacobsen talks about what happens when white and black professionals abandon inner city communities by incorporating separate municipalities. When that happens, tax money flows to affluent neighborhoods (like the real estate surrounding St. Alban’s Episcopal Church) while inner city communities wither and die. It doesn’t have to be that way, Jacobsen says:
David Rusk argues for a policy of regionalization of planning, taxing, and spending. He points to Indianapolis as a positive example of regionalization. when now Senator Richard Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis, he finessed a state legislative action that made the boundaries of Indianapolis and its surrounding county congruent, creating a ‘uni-government’. The effects have been dramatic.
The Christian gospel doesn’t damn the wealthy (although it comes damn close); the gospel is a call to repentance and a call to take responsibility for the men and women who sleep on park benches and undergo similar forms of humiliation. Continue reading