Tonight our church had one of its regular celebrations, a meal for friends and family, to bless the city and prove that there is such a thing as a free lunch - or a free dinner at least. And it was good to see one or two of our friends there: I and Z, recently put out onto the streets again; J, a local boy who’s made his way into a hostel and seems to be doing well, who brought with him another lad from the hostel, B, an erudite Glaswegian, who at the last Feast seemed more at home with the cathedral’s sculpture collection than with the other guests. (“Is that a Damien Hirst?” he asked. It was.)
But this isn’t just a story of “us” doing our bit of charity for “them.” It’s much more interesting than that.
At the end of last year, knowing that there was a baby on the way, the lads got together some of the things that they had been donated to sell on - a stair gate, some clothes - and gave them to us.
Then there was Christmas. I went round with some cards, some presents, and took a few home in return. Then they brought me into the kitchen. “Could you take some food home with you?” they asked. Well, I thought this was a little much. But it turns out that at Christmas, the shelters get given huge quantities of food - good food, top brands, from the best shops and suppliers. A van had drawn up as I arrived, with crate after crate of tinned meals.
“You’d be doing us a favour.”
They showed me the freezers, full, and the cupboards, full, and the storerooms outside, full. They literally didn’t have enough room to store it all.
And so I took a few crates from them. When the baby came, it made so much difference to us to be able to just heat up a tin or boil up a bag of soup. Thanks to the generosity of our friends, we’ve eaten better than we have at any time in our marriage!
The other day, our dinner was organic venison casserole.
One of the lecturers at college admitted that, when he was on the mission field, he found it easy to preach about salvation, but the idea of “the Kingdom of God” was something that he only understood as an academic concept, with no real practical application. He was still learning what it meant.
I’m starting to learn what the Kingdom of God is. You can see it when people who have absolutely nothing to their names can dine on organic venison casserole, and have so much that they have plenty to give away to others. That’s what it means to live in the Kingdom of God, and I’m glad, just occasionally, we’re allowed a glimpse of that world.
And Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior, because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant. For from now on all generations will call me blessed, because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him. He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Life for the homeless and vulnerably housed is not always like this; it’s not always Christmas. Occasions of such generosity and plenty are very rare, and there is a lot of need. Those not lucky enough to get into a shelter have to fend for themselves. Please support the work of Emmaus and other homeless charities so that they can help more people off the streets, and so that the Kingdom of God may increase.