"those who are considered of little or no value to society"

Since the festival I've been thinking and having discussions about popular people in the "movement" that drew the festival crowd. I can't help but be troubled by the fact that Jesus got crucified for his presentation (and life) of the radical gospel, while some who claim to preach it now get interviews on national radio shows and multiple book deals.

It brought to mind something from a letter I wrote from the road last summer (we passed this out after our talks at the festival):

It was dark when we approached the church, hoping to find shelter there for the night. Rain was coming. We surveyed the church grounds, not finding much, but it was rather late to be looking elsewhere. Then we saw a light in an upstairs window of one of the buildings. We thought we should at least ask permission before laying down, so we rang the bell and waited, a bit nervously. After a few moments we heard movement inside. Then the blinds on the window of the door parted and two eyes peered at us.

"Whaddya want?"

Heather and I looked at each other, then back at the eyes, and didn't know what to do. Did he really expect us to explain our situation shouting through a closed door? Then his fingers appeared, shooing us away. Heather thought she heard him say "We don't have any" as he turned away.

We found another church in time to hide from the fierce storm that blew in that night. But the next morning I thought again about those fingers, shooing us into the dark. That's the experience of nobodies. I remembered reading John Dominic Crossan's commentary on the Beatitudes in a library a few days earlier, and his description of Jesus' followers as "a kingdom of nobodies." Outsiders. Those who are considered of little or no value to society, and so are pushed to the margins. Or simply ignored. Yet among these Jesus found the ones he called "blessed."

Earlier in our walk, it had been much easier. We were well received and well provided for. I'd noticed a difference from walks in previous years; people seemed more open and welcoming now with Heather along. But that seemed to end with those eyes behind the door that didn't open.

For the next week and a half we weren't invited in. We slept outside night after night. Spent one night in a run-down, overpriced motel room, mostly to get ourselves clean. And there weren't any good conversations with people, either. Those we did meet at churches seemed to see us simply as a homeless couple—a problem. When that happens a lot, it's hard not to think of yourself that way. As a nobody. When everyone seems to be looking at you that way, it's hard not to see yourself as you appear in their eyes.

We both struggled with frustration, and argued more than usual. But it was during this time that I remembered the words of Jesus that had been so important to me in years past: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it." (Mt 10.39)

I had thought of "losing my life" mostly in the sense of letting go of possessions and advantages and ambitions. But now I began to think that a lot of a "life" is its place in society, a good reputation, the acceptance and cooperation of the people around us who have what we need. Being a somebody among those who are somebodies in our social circle. To lose this means not only losing people's help and material support, but also being rejected, ignored, unneeded, losing value in the eyes of the people that seem to make up our whole world. It seems to make us valueless as persons. Nobodies.

Yet Jesus apparently was drawn to society's nobodies, and followed a path that led to becoming a nobody himself, rejected, scorned, mocked. Why?

Struggling with this during those hard days of our walk, I began to wonder if the experience of such rejection is an important part of "finding" our life. Finding our true source of value and purpose and security. Not in popular opinion, or our place in the social order, or our image in the eyes of the many, but in how we appear in God's eyes. We have to choose where we will find ourselves, and the trial of social rejection becomes the place where that choice is forced upon us.