SP staff member Katelyn and the SP interns in Vancouver, British Columbia, have crafted a few parables out of lessons they have learned in the neighborhood.
I often reflect on how much I have learned about God's heart by spending my life among my neighbors who experience poverty. It is easy for me to see how Jesus would treasure and honor my neighbors if he encountered them on earth today. When Jesus taught, he often spoke in parables, creating relevant, resonant stories to make a point. A few weeks ago, some interns and I responded to Jesus' teaching on prayer by crafting a few parables out of the lessons we are learning from our neighbors.
In Luke 11, Jesus responds to the disciples' request, "Lord, teach us to pray."
Jesus said to them, "If one of you has a friend and goes to him in the night and says, 'Friend, give me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine is on a trip and has stopped at my house. I have no food to give him.' The man inside the house will say, 'Do not trouble me. The door is shut. My children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you bread.' I say to you, he may not get up and give him bread because he is a friend. Yet, if he keeps on asking, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. I say to you, ask, and what you ask for will be given to you. Look, and what you are looking for you will find. Knock, and the door you are knocking on will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive what he asks for. Everyone who looks will find what he is looking for. Everyone who knocks will have the door opened to him.
We see this same persistent, desperate, trust emulated among our neighbors. This constantly challenges my middle-class desire to be self-sufficient. Here is where I see God's heart in my neighbors.
How many of you, when you have a felt need, bring it before the community with which I've provided you?
Every Sunday in church, Dan announces his need for a TV before everyone gathered. You chuckle at the frivolousness of this ask in light of the real inadequacies he and others in the neighborhood face - homeless, hunger, illness, and loneliness - the things you consider real, deserving needs. Yet his ask ruminates in your mind as he persistently reminds the church every Sunday of his need. But one Sunday, he came in and brazenly announced, "Well, someone here gave me a TV, so you all can just forget about it!"
Suppose this woman is diagnosed with cancer again.
It is has threatened her vocal chords, her abdomen, immune system before three separate times. When she finds out, it doesn't crush her but she starts praying more. She reads psalms aloud so her whole spirit can absorb them. And she invests more and more in the church and community, rather than conserve her energy. One day she walks into a church and she is thrown backward by the force of healing. She believes with certainty at that moment that she is healed.
Suppose then a group of Chinese seniors and youth go to city council to prevent a condo development in their neighborhood.
They say to the council, "Do not approve this rezoning application, for in our neighborhood we find community and livelihood, and it is threatened by gentrification." And the city council will answer, "I disagree because there needs to be revitalization and more supply of housing." I tell you, even though the city council will not deny the rezoning application because they represent their constituents, they will deny it because of the group's persistence. If you then, who are selfish and apathetic, know how to give good gifts to your neighbors, how much more will your generous Parent in heaven give good things to those who ask?