Memorial for a Neighbor
The Stagger Inn bar was as dark as I had expected it to be, especially in comparisson to the afternoon sun of late July. Heidi, Aura and I were here to attend a memorial for Cooksie, one of the homeless neighbors we have come to know during weekly outreach to our neighbors without addresses. Apparently he had died in the early hours of the previous Sunday as he slept. Kenny, another homeless neighbor who stays by the Inn was shaken as he shared with me his account of finding the body. He was clearly suffering this afternoon... missing his friend of many years. He showed me to a makeshift memorial that had been set up in honor of this good friend just outside of the bar. Back inside the crowd was sparse but filled with familiar downturned faces. Someone was passing out free 16 oz King Cobra malt liquor as a remembrance. Heidi, Aura, and I sat a bit awkwardly at the tables to the right of the bar where a small gathering had assembled. We did our best to converse a bit and communicate a little comfort to these hurting friends. Aura was sitting at the end of the table talking with an older woman whose dentures were perilously close to falling out of her mouth as she complained about her "old man". As Aura sat calmly listening, graciously ignoring the foul language that peppered the conversation I was struck that this would be a place... a gathering... an event that Jesus would have attended. I was struck by the fact that these neighbors, hurting and raw are passionately loved by God. He knows thier hearts, sees thier pain, and longs for them to reach out to him.
A funny thing occured to me, I felt the same presence of Jesus in this bar at this memorial as I have felt in sanctuaries and worship services. The same Jesus we worship on Sundays is present in the pits... and he invites us along. It is when we follow him to the lowest places that we learn about the radical love of God and his desire for shalom for the least of these.
God may your kingdom come in the Stagger Inn as it is in heaven.