Just got back from a lovely little trip to Kansas City to visit our daughter and her husband, and to have our eyes opened for Easter.
They go to one of those new and different, warm and wonderful, innovative and yet tradition-honoring churches housed in an old art gallery. The place was crawling with cute little kids and their thoughtful, purposeful young parents. Lots of hugs and activity, but very little kid noise.
One little boy had his Batman cape tucked in under his vest and bow tie. There were tattoos and business suits, a 10-day-old baby and white-haired grandparents, big families mingling with singles. Heavenly diversity!
They had us sing “Crown Him With Many Crowns,” one of my favorite traditional Easter hymns. But it was accompanied by a guitar, not a pipe organ, and the pastor was wearing a rumpled but friendly shirt instead of a starched collar and flowing vestments.
But what really got me, and has stayed with me, is what was on the walls encircling us worshippers this morning:
Beautiful, haunting paintings of homeless people. They were painted by a fine young artist to show those people that they had beauty and importance and were worth looking at, and to communicate the same message to all non-street people who see the art.
They were excellent paintings that focused the eyes of your heart on the human beings in a powerful way.
The message blared in my heart loud and clear. “See them. They need you. Quit looking the other way.”
I was what they call “convicted,” that I have not obeyed my Savior’s commandment to love “the least of these” with all my heart, soul and strength. I’ve never done a gosh-darned thing to help the homeless — maybe a few quarters in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas, a few donated shirts and towels and so forth. But had I ever really seen them? Come face to face? No.
Now I will. It’s my Easter promise to the Risen King.
The inspiring artist who worked this change of heart is Eric Tiffany, www.erictiffany.com. Though I didn’t get to meet him, I like him just because I like his work.
He had come to that church to speak about his journey with this project, and how the homeless people reacted with disbelief and fright and joy when he asked if he could paint them.
One fellow looked pretty rough when he was asked to sit for the portrait. But the next day, he showed up in a fresh shirt with his beard all shaved off and his hair combed neatly — looking totally different. More like himself!
Another fellow expressed great gratitude when the artist asked to paint him, and smiled even bigger when the artist pledged to give him $20 for his time . . . but the subject never showed up the next day. Maybe that was him being himself, too. You just don’t know.
All I know is, the pastor’s sermon was all about how Easter makes us see with new eyes — like the story in Luke 24:13-32 about the Road to Emmaus. Right after the Resurrection, two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to the town pronounced “em MAY us” when suddenly, the risen Jesus was walking with them. But they didn’t recognize Him. It wasn’t ’til quite a while later that they finally realized Who He was. The instant they did (v. 31), He “vanished out of their sight.”
Once you see Jesus, nothing else ever looks the same. You really do see things fresh and new. You don’t need Him beside you physically and visually to still know that He is there. But you begin to see the world the way He does — that is, if you don’t let yourself get distracted, the way I always do.
All of us who call ourselves Christians are in our comfy homes with our cars and TV’s and smartphones and more than enough to eat. But we don’t need to have homeless people sprawled out on our front sidewalks and living under the nearest bridge to still know that they are out there — and they need us.
That’s what happened to me this Easter. I realized that I have seen Jesus — but to date, I haven’t really seen the homeless street people as the people they are, with the needs they have, and the help, warmth and respect they deserve every bit as much as anybody else on this planet. He sees them. Why don’t I?
Now I see them.
Because of those paintings, I can never put homelessness “out of sight, out of mind” again.
Now I see my brothers and sisters with my Easter eyes.
Thanks to the Original Homeless Person — Jesus Christ — the eyesight of faith is 20-20. I’m excited to join all those who already see, and learn from them how to help. If you’ve been blind to the homeless, too, I hope you’ll catch the vision. †
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him;
and he vanished out of their sight.
— Luke 24:31
By Susan Darst Williams | www.TheDailySusan.com | Radiant Beams | © 2017