Spectator or Participant?
I look forward to the start of every sports season:
Baseball begins around April but I start getting excited around February with the pitchers and catcher’s reporting to training camp and the start of Spring training games. We watch regularly until the end of October.
Football season begins with training camp in July and games in September. For 19 weeks, every Sunday, Monday and Thursday there is a football game on our T.V.
October starts Basketball and Hockey and we ride that wave until June.
That is only the professional teams, never mind all the college games.
All year long we are in the midst of some sports season.
But the most important seasons are not the ones that have us watching sports. It’s the ones that mark our church year on the calendar: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc. bring us through the different seasons of the year. We are guided through the life of Jesus as we prepare for His coming, celebrate His birth, travel through to Calvary and embrace His resurrected life. The seasons give us an ebb and flow, a rhythm of reflection and renewal.
And within those seasons there are other seasons that we engage in as a church. Last night was one of those “seasons.” Every other week from December – March we run the Men’s Shelter Ministry at another local church, Rockpoint Church in North Haledon. Each week 10 men from the Good Shepherd Mission in Paterson sleep at the church on Thursday nights throughout the winter months. Volunteers from our church along with some friends of our church prepare and cook the meal, serve the food, sleep over, cook breakfast and prepare lunches for these men. I am very proud of our small church and the impressive effort we put forth to give these men one night of relief. I am thankful for each person who helps throughout the year and especially appreciative of Brad Jones who does an outstanding job organizing and running this ministry. I cannot overstate the amount of work he does and the great attitude he has to make this as successful at it is.
With all the “work” that goes into the night, I think the most important part of the night is the time we spend with the men as they have their dinner. We get to hear their stories, the heartaches and heartbreaks of being homeless. We get to see them as people with personalities, with families, with backgrounds that are at times sad and heartbreaking and at other times filled with joy and hope. Whether it is Luis from Peru, Jose from the Dominican Republic, Paolo from Passaic, Henry from Paterson or Alvin from Florida, every one of these guys have one thing in common: They did not plan on being homeless. Homelessness was not something they aspired to or desired. When they were children they were dreaming of being police officers, athletes, engineers, lawyers and a host of other professions. They were hoping to do better than their parents, hoping to raise families and send kids to college. Some of them dreamt the American Dream and some of them actually lived it. And for one reason or another…or for many different reasons, they ended up at the Good Shepherd Mission. A few of them more than once. Some of them I remember from last year.
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching my sports throughout the year. But let’s not kid ourselves; When we watch we are only spectators. But when it comes to serving the homeless and talking to these men about life, and sharing God’s love with them we are participants. It’s not that we are being Jesus, but instead we are serving Jesus. We are participating in serving Jesus Himself. Jesus said that if we have “done this (given the hungry something to eat) to the least of My brothers you have done this to Me.”
During this Advent/Christmas/Men’s Shelter season, I encourage us to be participants in serving Jesus. After all, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus Himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?