Life Note

A Street Prophet

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? James 2:5

The main campus of our church is in the heart of downtown Lawrence, Kansas. There are a number of services for homeless and/or struggling persons in the vicinity, so we often have a diverse mix of people in worship. Several years ago, a man wandered into the sanctuary, stood in front of me as I led music, and insisted that we sing “Amazing Grace.” The man’s clothes were dirty, his hair unkempt, and he had blood oozing from an untreated cut on his arm. By his odor and mannerisms, he had been drinking. I asked him to take a seat while I finished the song set. He waited until I was able to take him to a room outside the sanctuary, where he and I sang “Amazing Grace.” He wept, singing through his tears, and I wondered what hell he had stumbled through to get to this point. I wondered how strongly he felt the cleansing presence of the Holy Spirit as we sang. When we finished, it was time for me to return to the service. His unfettered and determined worship blessed me. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

Another man has been attending Life worship, lately, who reminds me of the person I just described. His clothes are filthy and torn, he does not smell very good, and his hair and beard have grown wild. He is friendly, however, and always eager to talk, even though a speech impediment makes it difficult to understand his words. One thing is clear, however – he quotes scripture. There is no small talk with this man. He walks up to a person, quotes scripture, and then explains what it means. I call him the Street Prophet, but not in a derogatory way. He simply looks like he is from the street, and he talks as I imagine prophets of old spoke – completely focused on the Word of God.

Last week, this man quoted one of the love passages from Scripture and explained that love is not an emotion, but that true love expresses in action. The concept of love as a verb, as opposed to a feeling, is one that is near and dear to my heart. To hear the concept articulated by a street prophet gave me pause. Yet, the author of the Epistle of James tells us that God chose the poor to be rich in faith. The fact that many of us try to avoid those who are different from us does not change their status with God. If Jesus returned today, would he come as a middle-class, white American like me, or as a street prophet? I strongly and humbly suspect the latter.

Come home to church this Sunday. There is no predicting how you might be blessed.

Greg Hildenbrand

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