But there is hope for causes such as this, when the downtrodden are left in isolation, victimized by self-absorption and classified by presupposition. In my religious tradition, we identify that hope in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.
“For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the over of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.” — Psalm 27:5
It is natural to be skeptical of that kind of claim. If Jesus has a physical existence, and that physical existence is in heaven, what physical good can he do here? But Jesus has proven his messianic role in that he indeed promises the Spirit of God to those who ask him. This Spirit of God is the same who empowers people, brings them back from emotional, physical, spiritual, even psychological despair. This is not to say he does it all himself, nor does he exist completely detached from his creation — Jesus even calls the Spirit an “advocate,” and the specific Greek word is that of a helper at one’s side. God is incarnate — he dwells among us and wants to, can, and will be a companion to help, steady, strengthen, scout ahead and enable a fight for true justice: the Lord’s justice, and not any one individual’s or group’s “consensus” on it.
And the LORD also establishes his church to this end, the group of those who agree that love, righteousness and truth are worthy of being primary priorities in life. Obviously, not every group that goes by the name of “church” or contains “church” in its name is clearly aligned with those values. However, certain groups are clearly aligned, and the clearest way to tell is what they offer fellow human beings who have less. I am currently and have been a member of various churches, including the Anglican/Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and United Methodist Church; all of these have clear, written determination to be available for urgent assistance, whether directly or as an advocate and guide to more specialized provision. So while not all individual congregations will do as the branch entire has agreed to do, at least there is a clear formulated decision in these groups above to be fellow servants with those who need help to survive — something for which the homeless and any other group clearly in need can hold individual congregations accountable.
In those churches and others around the globe, this Sunday began the season of Advent. For those of us in those churches: now is the time to give whatever you have when the opportunity arises to those who need it, not just those who want what they don’t need:
The first Sunday of Advent exists to remind Jesus’ followers of the capacity and necessity for hope. Whatever someone may think of that belief in that God, it’s clear that this is true: if there is hope powerful enough to sustain a desire for the return of that now-unseen God to restore life anew the world over, surely those who have that hope are powerful enough to help people in desperate times of need.