by Rev Deacon Jeffrey Boyce
“Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.” These were the opening lines in our Epistle on May 14. Peter is telling us to do good. Just as Jesus did. “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.”
And when we feel persecuted because of beliefs, or the things we do as a result of our beliefs, we are “blessed”, according to Peter. I call it the good graces of God that we do good in this world. Peter is teaching the Churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to see the benefit in doing good. This “good” translates to “being right with God and our neighbors”.
To do what is right, what is right in the sight of God is what Jesus asked us to do.
As we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, there are people who are not going to see the world the same as you or I. We may have differing ideas about how to solve problems, or how to speak of those things that are of concern to us or someone else. That is a challenge that we all face, and also when we bring new ideas to a community.
According to Peter, to suffer doing good is better than suffering for doing evil. So, Peter has quantified suffering for us. It is better to do good, even if we suffer.
As we move forward with Safe Parking, we have had neighbors who do not understand what we are doing. Loud expressions of fear have been voiced. This fear comes from not knowing what we are doing or why. We pray for them every Sunday. The latest unsheltered count was just released from Pierce County, and like other Counties, we have seen an increase in the homeless population. Some in the County have tried to say that some of the increase may be due to a better counting procedure. However, the County cannot deny that 6100 people accessed the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) last year. HMIS is the system that is used to keep track of and prioritize people for what little low-income housing there is available.
Keep in mind that at our Point-in-Time Count this year, we counted 2300 people. The County knows that counting every unsheltered soul is not possible. We Advocates know each year that we cannot count each person. We also know that the available low-income housing is nowhere close to filling the needs of those who are unsheltered. In my neighborhood there are two major projects that are being started.
One of them will be market value; the other is low income specific by the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI). That will be 88 units. Only 335 low-income units are currently being funded and 455 units waiting in the wings to be funded. What we are seeing is a gentrification of the Hill Top community.
All of the new apartments along Pacific Ave are market rate apartments. There is a large need for low-income housing. Our State has allocated millions to help this need. Keep in mind that once the money is allocated, it still takes 3-5 years to go from funding to a finished building. Our Mission of providing support and assisting those who do not have homes is not going away soon. What we are doing is just scratching the surface. We are doing our part. We do it well. Patience is a virtue, after all.
In our Psalm that we prayed on May 14, we know that God will answer our call. We prayed:
“But in truth God has heard me he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God who has not rejected my prayer nor withheld his love from me.” — Psalm 66: 17-18
This is part of who we are as Episcopalians. We pray, and we pray together. Through Jesus, we have our interventionist, he told us so. Jesus knew there were going to be problems in our world and our lives. He told us to pray to our God through him, Jesus, and those prayers will be answered. That does not mean that we don’t get our hands dirty doing God’s work. That’s the fun part. We get to do the work. We get to meet the marginalized in our community. We get to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. With our work with Larchmont Elementary, the Veterans’ Village, Nourish Sundays, and now Safe Parking, we do so much—so much to be proud of. Our communal prayer, and the desire for communal prayer, I believe is the good and right thing to do. Prayer brings us together to share in God’s Love. To share in God’s Mystery and God’s being, we become more like Christ, more like Jesus.
What a message this is! To walk like Jesus and to meet those the rest of society does not. To walk with the unsheltered, who do not have some of the simplest things in life that many of us take for granted—they are God’s Children too.
I love this line from Acts 17:29: “In him we live and move and have our being”. Jesus is our Savior. Amen.