Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Are we good news to anyone?

At the end of our cafe church on Sunday, a man walked in looking for the pastor. He was looking for help, any help we could give him. He'd been a bike messenger in the City - carrying documents between some of the leading financial services companies in the country - and had a flat. But six weeks ago he'd lost his job and a month ago, lost his flat. He'd slept rough in Bromley the night before. What could we do to help him?

He's the tip of a vast iceberg; people who clung to a life through the boom who've been washed up on the rocks as the wave has broken.

As we phoned round the usual agencies, we discovered that there's virtually no help for such homeless people. Nearly all the hostels only take referrals from their respective local authority and have waiting lists as long as your arm; everyone tells you to call Shelter - wonderful organisation - but their helpline isn't available at 9pm on a Sunday.

We found him a hostel place - somewhere he'd stayed before but couldn't afford to to anymore - and booked him a couple of nights and wished him well. I'll call him at the end of the week to see how he's doing.

But is that it?

Sometimes in the face of need, I feel so impotent. More than that, I feel fearful; afraid that acting, doing something will lead to a situation where I am not in control. And so, I hesitate...

Over on thinking mission, David Kerrigan has mused on what it means to be radical. It's good stuff; go and read it. In particular, he's asked us 'why, if we are good news, do so few recognise us as such?' And he adds: 'I am pleading that we have the humility to look at how we live, how we gather, and how we express our Christian faith in a world riddled with injustice, where power is used and abused in a way that has little in common with the way Jesus encouraged his followers to live.'

London faces a housing crisis that if current projections are to be believed will get much worse over the next ten years because we are just not building enough homes for everyone who needs one. For those of us on the property ladder already, this is probably good news because it means rising property values. 

But for those in poor, inadequate, over-crowded housing and those sleeping on a mate's sofa or in a box in the park, this is really bad news. Their plight will get worse. Again, the poor land at the bottom of the heap. And who will lift them up?

It's trite to ask 'what would Jesus do?' But I think it is worth asking, as David does, because I think we need to look into our collective hearts and ask ourselves 'what kind of people do we want to be?' and 'what kind of people do we think Jesus wants us to be?'

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