The weather began to look stormy as we prepared for the worship service in the only shaded corner of the parking lot at Market and Monroe in downtown Jacksonville. The forecast called for severe storms to begin at 1 pm and it looked accurate. We tore down what we had set up, brought the bag lunches we had made at our pastor's house this morning inside and about a hundred of us sought shelter inside the conference room of the Episcopal Diocese. It was steamy inside as we sat or stood shoulder to shoulder. We sang some hymns. Then, we read the Scriptures. I noted how different Psalm 130 sounded in the midst of 90 people who were living on the streets. Some had all they owned in backpacks or in grocery store carts outside. One man in front of me said I need a shower and walked outside to get drenched. Some people were waving their hands to the LORD. Most read the Scripture with the reader. Some added their own interpretive comments.
Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord, we prayed.
Let Your ears consider well the voice of our supplication.
My soul waits for the Lord, and we waited.
While a man, bald and maybe 55, sweat stained and wearing well - worn shorts and a t-shirt, read the New Testament reading from 2 Corinthians 8. I was surprised he read so well (why?), and wondered what he had done before he ended up on the street.
You know the generous act of our LORD Jesus Christ, though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor (Poor - it hit me like a gut punch). Your gift is acceptable according to what one has not according to what one does not have. The one who had much to give did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.
Then the pastor read the gospel from Mark 5, the story about the raising of Jairus daughter from the dead. There was a woman seated to the right of the pastor who obviously knew the text and kept up a running commentary on it. When he read that the people laughed at Jesus for saying his daughter was not dead only sleeping, she said, of course they did. I imagine she had been laughed at a lot. She nearly shouted, Talitha cum. And then raised her hands and looked around the room, smiling, shaking her head and said, He raises the dead, as if that was a matter of fact and there was no denying it.
The pastor finished up and led the prayers of the people. Many people prayed for the sick, for job interviews, for addictions and for family members a long way off and everyone responded: Hear our prayer.
A few of the young people from our church were recruited to take the plate holding the cups of grape juice around the room following the pastor who held the bread and gave a generous piece to each of us. I thought it tasted like King's Hawaiian, a little bit of paradise.
Everyone got up and passed the peace. The blessing followed another hymn. The bottles of water and sandwiches, cookies and fruit were distributed. The skies had cleared and people hung out in the parking lot talking.