Yesterday a cool breeze invited us outside again for Wednesday Noon Prayers in the Church Garden. I spread the blanket in the garden shade and was moving the sprinkler to a new hosta bed, when a colleague and church member arrived to join in prayer. We took off our shoes and sat, caught up for a few moments, and then began prayer. We had hardly begun when Frank came across the church lawn from the building. He was an older man, face wrinkled, clothes dirty and hanging loosely on his body. He had been in to the food pantry and came out somewhat agitated. He said they wouldn’t give him food this week and he didn’t understand why. The director of our Isaiah 58 Ministries outreach program was there in our prayer time, so she responded to him, explaining that he had received food last week and the pantry could only give him food every two weeks. Insisting that he had not taken a bag of food last week, he said ‘I’m hungry.” So Brenda told him that we were in prayer and that when we finished, she would help him. I then asked Frank if he would like to sit down and join us for Noon Prayers.
Frank sat down a couple of feet from the blanket. I invited him to come closer, to sit with us on the blanket if he would like and he moved just to its edge. Just as I started to continue our prayers, Frank said that a particular American world leader is “going to hell.” He said that Katrina came and “nobody did nothin’.” He then said that his sister had died in New Orleans and that he had not had the money to go to her funeral. He described the situation of so many who have still not received assistance there. We listened for a few minutes, shared our grief over the pain and loss, and moved to the reading of our scripture for the day:
Luke 6: 19 ff. — “And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. (Frank said, “That sounds good.”) Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they revile you, and defame you on account of the Human One. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; (Frank said: “Yes, Maam, that sounds good.”) for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for tha is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Frank said, “That’s it.”)
As we opened up for reflection on the scripture, Frank was quiet. Then he said, “I’m hungry now, can we go get some food?”
What else was there to say? Reading the scripture and praying for God’s people with Frank had caused me to hear anew. Following our prayers of intercession, Brenda and Frank went in to the food pantry. I folded up the blanket.