My dad called me this morning and we talked about things that happend at the Free Store last night. I was rather dismayed to hear that my friend Eddy, who’d been playing guitar, had a bit of a violent blow out and the police were called. I was saddened, but I’m never altogether taken by surprise. Maybe sometimes I sound a bit Pollyannaish when I describe the Free Store, as though I only expect the best from our experiences and sobriety and rationality from each day forward from these folks I call friends. Well, if you read further than the first page of this blog, you should know that’s not true. I grew up in this work. I’ve known a lot of heartache from the many friends who’ve come and gone, many of whom died later as a result of their life choices. Today I did this little study as a reminder to myself of what it is I’m involved in and why. I hope you find it helpful as well:
Ministry of good news to the poor is, in essence, a work of the Kingdom of God. Now in this work, just as in the parable of the soils in Mark 4:1-20, the good news of the kingdom does not always meet with good result. In this story the sower casts his seed for all the soil. In our work of spreading good news to the poor we will often meet with stolen, sun scorched and thistle choked results. The soil is not always ready but we must remember that the sower is always impartial. God’s Grace often seems misplaced in us human beings. I’ve been writing lately about men on Commercial Street in Springfield without ID, many with the disease of alcoholism, mental illness or drug addiction. Now many would say that these poor are used up soil who no longer have a place for the seed of the Kingdom. But the Scriptures indicate that the poor are a crucial part of God’s Kingdom and that ministry to them gives us a glimpse into God’s new order of things. (Luke 1:52-53; James 2:5)
For those of us called to this Kingdom work, God’s law of liberty (James 2:12-26) serves as our manner of speech and action. This new law does not judge a person by how often they fail, by their psychological type, their medical history, their credit record, or their family history. This new life-giving law says that we should regard no one from a human point of view but rather as the new creation they are becoming in Christ, where the old is passed, the new is come, and where we are ambassadors of Christ for reconciliation. This is what is truly odd about the Free Store in Springfield. The Free Store is a small space where persons from any walk of life can gather and experience what the Kingdom of God might look like. Now in my experience in this Kingdom, what is different about it is that the free space fills with all sorts of ugly, human, and messy things. The carpets are soiled. The furniture is broken. It’s a free work and the money is spent on food and keeping the lights on. If it’s true that cleanliness is next to godliness, than this kind of Kingdom space might not look so godly on a given night. The guests were all beckoned from the highways and byways! (Mt. 22:9-10) But looks are not what we’re after here. We’re talking about the promise of being new people!
What I find beautiful about this parable of the soil is with what complete abandon the sower spreads his seed. By some standards it is careless, disregarding economy or even ergonomics. Why waste seed in places where it won’t grow? Its impractical, even insensible. But this is the Kingdom! No expense is spared within the possibility that here too in the darkest, rockiest, and thorniest places the Kingdom might flourish. As long as we have breath in our bodies and blood in our veins we do not lie beyond the grace of God. We must believe this, because this gospel was freely preached to us! If we know ourselves rightly, we know that God’s work in us does not cease after we agree that it begin. There is still thorny ground in all of us. The parable of the Wheat and the Tares reminds us that the enemy has sown weeds even in the good crop and that only in the End will God’s Harvest be revealed.