My encounter with April

April reached out to me by e-mail. I was recommended to her as someone she should reach out to as someone who could help her out. She wasn’t looking for help with paying the fee to live in the hotel, but help to get out. She told me that she had to leave — that she needed to set free of the bondage of the place she was living in. She was being reunited with her ex-husband who was living in Colorado.

I came and visited with her in her room just a couple of days ago. I didn’t know what to expect. She spent the first hour telling me her story, but with a twist. It was a story of God’s timing and God’s plans and how they are different from ours. She has been separated from her husband for 14 months, but that separation allowed healing to happen. That separation gave room for April to see how God is Lord, and not anything or anyone else.

We talked and shared our faith stories, moments in our lives when we have experienced God nudging us and tapping us on the shoulder, and sometimes shouting directly at us to get our attention.

She shared with me what it has been like living in the motel — like a trap. Things deteriorate, service is terrible, there is no kitchen or way to make food, except for a microwave, and things generally don’t work consistently. But there aren’t a whole lot of options for people in her situation. She described it as being in bondage — a term that is not used lightly. And a term that seems very fitting. It’s not just physical bondage, but bondage of the spirit, of the human will to live. Every week, the bill comes due to cover the shelter of the room — an expense that is way beyond normal. An expense that often times takes advantage of the poor who are sheltered there. But then again, where else are these folks going to go?

In this country, there is a creed that we live by — individualism. It’s the belief that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that everyone is able to get themselves out of trouble, and that only the lazy suffer the consequences.

And in this country, we like to claim that we are a Christian nation. Many churches proclaim the creeds of the church that were established centuries ago in far off lands. And we claim to follow Jesus who favored the poor and proclaimed Good News to the poor.

How do these two creeds and belief systems compliment each other though? Christianity isn’t so much about our personal salvation devoid of public implications, but as something far more greater. Revelation 21 paints a picture of the entirety of creation being renewed and restored. Jesus doesn’t proclaim that only the strong will survive and only those with material wealth are the ones who are blessed by God.

When I keep encountering more and more people who are struggling with the basic necessities of life, I have to compare our national operating creeds and beliefs with those of Jesus. And frankly, I find our nation’s operating beliefs to be lacking — failing in the promise of an American Dream. But Jesus has yet to fail to come through on his promises. If we are a great nation, then why do so many struggle to survive? If you think there is an easy answer for this, then you are dismissing the struggles that exist because you think they don’t affect you. And you are wrong.

Homelessness does affect you. When a homeless person without insurance gets sick, they go the hospital to receive treatment. Going to a hospital for routine care is expensive. Someone has to pay for that. It ends up showing up in your insurance premiums and taxes. When the poor don’t have enough food because they are being gorged with weekly payments, they become sicker and have health problems. Guess who pays for that? When the homeless sneak over to an abandoned hotel to find shelter and every day the local police department are sent over to kick people out — someone has to pay for the police to do this, as opposed to doing something else. Guess who pays? That’s right, everyone does, including the people who think that homelessness has no impact on their lives. Apparently, we like to lie to ourselves and think that we are like islands. Yet Christ calls us into community, to proclamation, and to service of others.

1 Peter 2:9–10 states:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on August 2, 2018.

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Pastor Matthew Best

My name is Matthew Best. I’m an ELCA (Lutheran) pastor who attempts to translate church and churchy stuff into everyday language.