Christ Testing us on the Street
In the 14th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples and the crowd that has gathered, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Not every day, not every week, but sometimes, life chooses a moment to test us. To see if we are able walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk. One such moment happened to me this past Monday. We were expecting a historic amount of snowfall starting in the afternoon, so I decided to walk to work to try and avoid the hassle and stress of driving in the snowy conditions. After a relatively normal twenty minute walk, I arrived at the intersection of Chapel and Olive streets where my workplace, The Episcopal Church of Saint Paul and Saint James, is located. While waiting for the crosswalk sign to change, I noticed a figure on the front step of the church, right next to the red front door. They were shrouded in what seemed to be a big gray poncho, unmoving in the beginnings of the day’s snowfall. I am a bit ashamed to admit that my first thoughts were those of avoidance and fear. I thought it might be easier for me to go in through the back door and not deal with this person, or even worse to go through the front door and act as though they weren’t there.
That was the moment when my better angels kicked in, and essentially told me to get my act together, to act like I was raised to, to treat whoever this stranger was as an equal, as someone who needed my response, to see them as Jesus. I crossed the street, and got the banana I had brought for the day out of my bag, ready to hand it over, when I realized this person had not moved since I had noticed them. I prayed to God hoping they were not dead, because selfishly I did not want to have to deal with a dead person first thing on a Monday morning. It was not until I reached the base of the steps that I finally realized that this figure was not a real person, but rather an incredibly realistic statue of Jesus dressed as a beggar. I then saw on the outstretched hand of the statue a wound, meant to represent the ones he suffered from his crucifixion. I was completely floored. This statue had turned my day upside down, I felt very satisfied with my final decision, but extremely disappointed in my first thoughts upon see the figure at our door.
The statue is a recreation of one that sits outside Rome’s largest hospital. It is making its way around the Episcopal Churches in Connecticut throughout 2015. My boss had the statue installed without telling anyone it would be there Monday morning. I am so glad that I had this experience unknowingly, because the majority of the tests that life throws at are going to come at the times we are least prepared for them. Of course this would happen to me on a day I decided to walk to work with a blizzard on a way. I don’t think I would have even noticed the statue if I had driven like normal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this piece to show how much of a Saint I am. Quite the opposite, actually: I wanted to show that even a person like me who works at a food pantry, preaches social justice, and tries to be a follower of Jesus, that I have moments of temptation to go the easy route, instead of the right one. In the tests of life it is easy to think that there are multiple answers, but when we get honest with ourselves it is a clear answer, from the mouth of Jesus himself, “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”