Saturday nights in late summer can be pleasant times to sit outside enjoying your favorite caffeine based brew. Sipping a latte, catching up on weekly events with a good friend, and simply enjoying cars breezing by as the sunset slowly transitions into a serene moonscape easily relaxes my heart and mind after a bustling week.
Conversations may run deeper than weekly catch up chatter and I find many times we engage in discussions about our faith, what Jesus is calling us to, how to improve our witness, and serve others with mercy and grace. What always catches me off guard is when Jesus actually arrives and initiates a conversation. No, I’m not dreaming, not making something up, and do not need to be committed somewhere…well maybe I could be committed. Because we believe Jesus was resurrected is alive, why do we assume we are not making daily contacts with him? Case in point, I spoke with him this past Saturday night.
I was enjoying Starbucks with a friend, talking about politics and where our country is going. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man drift around our table and give a weak smile. Something about him stuck with me but I could not put my finger on it. About five minutes later he approached me and my friend, Andrew. He looked directly at Andrew and in an apologetic tone began to unfold his story. He was homeless and living in a tent. That night, he was hot, parched and seeking a drink. I could not figure out if he was asking for money to buy a drink but he kept apologizing fearing he was going to make us mad for his interruption. Finally, I chimed in and asked him what he needed…water, coffee, food? Tilting his head down and avoiding eye contact he said water would be great.
We strolled into Starbucks and he unfolded more of his story. He had been incarcerated at one point in time and had made his way from Dublin, GA to Columbus. His name was Curtis. Although homeless, some of the local churches were helping him get on his feet. Gazing through the display window he selected a bottle of water, orange soda, sandwich and a donut. In addition, I slipped five dollars into his bag without him noticing. As we walked out of Starbucks I simply offered him a God bless and that I hoped all would be well and that I would be thinking about him. I have thought about him each day this week-it seems I cannot get him out of my mind.
In Matthew 25 Jesus lays out the passage about the sheep and the goats and what happens when we are encountered by the least of these. Will we respond or will we turn away? Curtis came requesting water, was hungry, had no shelter, and had been in prison. In short, I was talking to Jesus that evening. If Jesus is our creator and we are created in his image, then every person we meet bares the mark of our Savior who died and was resurrected.
Every day we may be faced with these choices and must ask ourselves, how will we respond when we meet Jesus disguised as Curtis, or Janice, or a panhandler? I pray that our hearts stay soft and pliable and that we give and share and let God work out the hearts of those asking! I hope you get to speak with Jesus at Starbuck’s or wherever you may be!