worship on the streets

Good day yesterday. We visited the street church in Cambridge in the morning, then walked down to Boston Common for the Common Cathedral service, and got to meet and talk with the folks who lead both those ministries. We were also eagerly welcomed by the homeless members of those congregations. And the gospel reading for this Sunday, from the beginning of Luke 10, was perfect for us as we begin this journey:

Jesus said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves...

"Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'"

The worship was interrupted at times by street noises and people who aren't used to prayer services, but the service was well-prepared and taken seriously by the leaders and the people respected that. They seemed to be coming primarily for the worship, too, which was good to see. It was a pretty joyful time, at both places.

The most encouraging part for me (and something we would also like to see at our retreat ministry) was the respect for the spiritual lives of the poor folks who gathered there. It wasn't about preaching at them, but being their church community. Very unusual, in my experience. I remember a suburban church I visited once on the road, who bussed homeless people in for a service, preached to them about hell's eternal flames, and then sent them back to their shelter in the city. Ironically, the preacher used the story of the rich man and Lazarus, but failed to notice that it's poor, suffering Lazarus who ends up comforted in heaven and the rich man who ends up in the flames. Jesus very much respected the spiritual lives of those ignored and cast out of society, and gave himself primarily to them. That's what we'd like to do too.

Another thing I want to remember from yesterday: Talking about trying to live the more radical Christian life, the guy who started the street church in Cambridge said, "It's not a lonely path—there's just not very many people on it."