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Vicar's Musings for Christ the King

26 November, 2017

Addressing issues of homelessness and social justice are central to our understanding and expression of the Gospel here at St Peter's. Today the 2017 Klingner Scholar, Colleen Clayton, will be continuing this month's sermon series in this area, preaching at the 9.30am and 11.00am Masses. Below is a reflection on homelessness written by parishioner Nick Browne, who is Chair of the Insitiute of Spiritual Studies (ISS) and Secretary of Parish Council.

One of the significant issues facing us as a parish — and one which has been the focus of preaching on recent Sundays — is our response to the homeless. With this in mind, I was struck by a recent post by progressive American evangelical blogger Fred Clark: "Here's the thing we ... aren't allowed or accustomed to notice: most of the time in the Bible, the poor are already saved. All of them. They just are. That's a given. It's rarely stated outright because, throughout the Bible, it goes without saying. It is simply assumed — over and over again. The starkest example of this might be Jesus' parable of the rich man (sometimes called ‘Dives') and the beggar Lazarus. How and why is Lazarus 'saved' in that story? He just is. Salvation belongs to him because nothing else does. The only drama in that story involves Dives and his wealthy relatives. Can they be saved, too? Yes — because they need to be. No such need is attributed to Lazarus. But surely Lazarus — like all people — is a sinner. And surely that means he needs to be saved from his sins? Probably so. But if his Jubilee and salvation also involves the forgiveness of his sins, then it doesn't occur in that story due to his confession and repentance. It is granted to him and attributed to him because he is a beggar. That's how Jubilee works. It makes demands from creditors and extends grace to debtors — whether or not they seek it or even know it.

"Or consider the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which the nations and the people of the nations are judged based on how they respond to the hungry, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. Some of these folks are ‘saved' and some are not, but there's a whole other category unaddressed in this judgment — the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned themselves. They seem exempt from the summons to stand before the throne. There's no sense questioning whether they meet the standard of this judgment because they are the standard. Their 'salvation' is never in question. The only question is who from among the rest of us will be joining them. (And the answer, in that parable, is those who have already joined them.)"

Clark's observations about judgement put a different perspective on "us and our salvation." It is the homeless participants at the breakfast program, the rough sleepers we pass on the way into morning Mass who are saved. Without question. It is no accident that our outreach to the homeless is called The Lazarus Centre — but perhaps we need to keep in mind that if we are to see Lazarus in the homeless, then we also need to remember who we are in this story.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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