Jim’s Speech

As some of you remember, back in January, on Friday night the 10th, we had a neighborhood meeting at the YMCA. The focus was on neighborhood safety but there were clearly those present who wanted to shut down our church. After the meeting, a homeless man who uses our services named Jim, came to me with a speech that he had written and had hoped to share at this meeting. He did not have that opportunity, so he gave me the speech and said I could use it, if it was helpful. It is beautifully written and I share it with you here.
“Good evening, My name is Jim. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here tonight. I would like to start with what the First United Methodist Church means to me.
   On many occasions the church has provided me with my only meal of the day. It has been a warm, dry haven for me on inclement days when I have nowhere else to go.
   The church not only provides meals for needy individuals, but also clothing, hygiene kits, vitamins, cold medication when needed, and essential baby needs such as bottles, formula, wipes, and as every parent knows, the most important thing; DIAPERS.
   I myself have lived an incredibly productive and successful adult life up until the past couple of years when personal and emotional problems have gotten the best of me. I always say to anyone who will listen, if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. There is a concept that most people living in this country today are only two paychecks away from homelessness. It really can happen to anyone.
   I understand that those two horrific crimes that have taken place near the church and were perpetrated by homeless individuals has brought a spotlight onto the churches effort and how SOME individuals may impact the community here. I would also like to point out that many terrible crimes happen every day in all different neighborhoods from people of all walks of life. To say that it is because the Methodist Church is attracting some questionable characters is really narrow minded.
   The church also attracts many good people. These people are for whatever reason down on their luck. There are families with children that especially need the comfort that the church provides. There is also an outpouring of good people from other churches and organizations that come to serve food and give support to what they consider to be a noble cause.
   For some of this community to be so very willing to turn their backs on the downtrodden, I find truly disheartening. It is always easier to point out and remember the bad things that happen. It’s because they sting. We must always strive to focus on the good, positive moments and events that we experience in life.
   I humbly request that the caring people of this community take a good look at the big picture of HOPE AND COMFORT that the church brings to so many. They are doing God’s work and that is what they are here for. They deserve a pat on the back and additional support with this endeavor. We need to work on solutions rather than mustering accusations. We are all members of this community and want nothing but the best for it.
   I thank you for your time and I hope I was able to convince at least a few of you to look into your hearts and start thinking.”  

God Loves Everybody

God loves everybody — no exceptions! I remember my favorite biblical scholar, Marcus Borg, saying that perhaps more than anything, it was Jesus’ eating habits that got him crucified. By breaking bread with the “unclean” he was violating holiness codes. He was hanging out with the wrong people. You might say that he was saying “God loves everyone — no exceptions!” 
This is what we believe at First UMC Salinas. This is what our ministry to the poor is built upon. Jesus touched the lepers. They were the untouchables of the day. There are modern day equivalents and we serve them and they serve with us. We touch them. And we are touched deeply by them. 
We are finding that some do not like this. Or they say, “We like what you do, just do it somewhere else.” But our outpost for ministry since 1927 has been 404 Lincoln Ave. and here we will remain, living out our calling. 
We put safeguards in place for everyone involved. We will continue to work for the safety of all. We will work for the common good. And we will continue to give top priority to the poor, homeless, addicted, and mentally ill. 
No one is beyond God’s forgiveness. No one is untouchable. God loves everyone! No exceptions! Thanks be to God! That means that even I get to be a part of this.
In humility,

Pastor Steve Lundin