We’ve just begun a Sunday morning adult Bible class series on the book of Exodus, the great foundational story of God’s rescuing a desperate band of nameless slaves and shaping them into a nation of his holy people for the salvation of the world. Wow. That’s quite a lot to consider.
The first couple of chapters in Exodus deal with God’s concern for the dignity of his created people. They have names and families and hurts and needs. All of them. Even these poor slaves who have no power, no resources, no status; they have dignity and beauty and great value as God’s created sons and daughters. They have names.
And we’re trying at Central to restore that same dignity to and recognize the value in the powerless marginalized of downtown Amarillo. Sunday mornings at the Upreach Center, Wednesday nights at Martha’s home, and Thursdays at Loaves and Fishes are special times each week when we make faithful attempts to show the love and grace of Jesus to those who need it most. For the past three Thursdays I’ve been blessed to share the good news of salvation from God in Christ to 140-150 people who are desperate for food and shelter. And grace. And hope.
I preach to them. (Or, I should say, I preach ‘with’ them. They talk to me and with me throughout my time down there. Lots of ‘amens’ and ‘thank you, Jesus.’) I visit with them about segregation and old BBQ joints and grandkids and illnesses. Actually, I mostly listen. I hug them. We laugh together. And we always wind up marveling together about the faithfulness of our God. And his great goodness.
Oh, yeah. Some of them are grouchy, too. Just like church people, some of them complain and wonder aloud why they aren’t being properly treated.
But the whole scene reminds me of something Robert Coles wrote in The Spiritual Life of Children:
Sometimes, as I sit and watch a child struggle to draw a picture of God — to do just the right job of representing God’s face, his features, the shape of his head, the cast of his countenance — I think back to my days of working in Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker soup kitchen. One afternoon, after several of us had struggled with a “wino,” an angry, cursing, truculent man of fifty or so, with long gray hair, a full, scraggly beard, a huge scar on his right cheek, a mouth with virtually no teeth, and bloodshot eyes, one of which had a terrible tic, Dorothy told us, “For all we know he might be God himself come here to test us, so let us treat him as an honored guest and look at his face as if it is the most beautiful one we can imagine.”
Meeting needs and serving others and restoring dignity to God’s children is like heaven. It really is the Kingdom of God. It’s God’s will being done in Amarillo just as it is in heaven. And jumping in to join our Father in this kind of work is so very rewarding. Of course, the good feelings we recieve and the satisfaction of partnering with God is just a foretaste. Our Lord promises those who feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the cold, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and visit the prisoners actually participate in feeding, clothing, sheltering, caring for, and visiting Jesus himself. We inherit the “Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” But we also get a glimpse of God. God reveals himself to us on Thursday mornings.
Today I saw the face of God in David, sitting there in his wheelchair, singing with Amber a song he didn’t even know. I saw the face of God in Willie’s gold tooth with the diamond “W.” I saw the face of God in Christy’s grief today. I saw the face of God in Louise’s gratitude. In Carla’s huge smile. In Doug’s enthusiasm. In the telling and re-telling of Debra’s healing and recovery.
I don’t see the face of God when I look in the mirror. Maybe I should. He definitely reveals it to me every Thursday. It’s unmistakable. And I praise him for that regular and glorious revelation.