01 July 2014

For the Son of Man Has No Place to Lay His Head

Jesus the Homeless by Timothy Schmalz, Ontario,  Canada
Located outside St Alban's Episcopal Church, Davidson, NC

Yesterday we heard the Gospel lection reminding us that Jesus had no place to lay his head and tomorrow we have the story of the people of Gadara asking Jesus to leave them alone and to not trouble them or their lives with the changes required by faith. With both of these stories on my mind I came across the story of a sculpture which was put up in front of St Alban's Episcopal Church in the wealthy NC community of Davidson (I wonder if anyone has noted the irony of THAT name!?). It cast Jesus in the role of a typical homeless person asleep on a city bench. The figure is entirely wrapped in a grey blanket, lying on his side in a modified fetal position so very familiar in those vulnerable persons sleeping in city doorways, on steam grates, and hidden as best they can be behind loaded shopping carts, etc. Only the feet are somewhat visible with their nail holes.

The responses to this piece have varied. When the sculpture was first put up one women in the neighborhood called the police to report a homeless person sleeping on the bench! She was concerned for the neighborhood. She also told reporters she didn't like having Jesus represented as a vagrant.  Similar sculptures have been rejected in a number of places despite initial interest in having one.  Both St Patrick's Cathedral in NY (in the process of renovating) and St Michael's Cathedral in Toronto declined placement. Rome will be putting one up if  the city okays the project. A Jesuit School (University of Toronto) will be doing the same. Pope Francis was given a smaller version of the statue and quietly rested his hands on the feet and prayed.

Today many people come and sit on the end of the bench and quietly rest their hands on or stroke the feet of the crucified one. I like to hope that little by little people are being opened to see others as they see Christ --- wounded and scarred by others and our society and without a place to really rest their heads. The choice between being people of Gadara ("And when they saw him they begged him to . . .") or people of the Kingdom is one we face everyday.