“We serve a homeless God,” said a friend of mine – who serves a United Methodist church in a different part of the country – implying also that her church is called to care for the homeless in its community. She said this in response the her municipality’s demand that the church either pay fines for violating city code or take down tents it’s erected on its property for homeless people to sleep and receive food in. Civil disobedience, they recognize, comes with a cost.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, prophetically sung of this cost in the song known as the “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-55). She sings of the powerful being brought low and the lowly lifted up in multiple ways. It’s uncomfortable, as uncomfortable as the image of a “homeless God” – his parents wandering from house to house looking for room, fleeing to Egypt, and hiding from the violence of insecure, power-hungry rulers.
We UM4GI churches may not be called to erect tents on our properties. Yet Mary’s song invites us to ponder our own social standing as churches and people (privileged or not?), the state of our hearts (proud or humble?), the real needs of our community, and God’s particular calling for us. After all, we do serve a homeless God.