For as long as I can remember a homeless man has been hanging out every morning just opposite the Starbucks parking lot near my office. I always look for him when I walk from my car to the building I work in. Most every morning I see him in his wheelchair “directing” traffic entering and leaving the parking lot. On the occasional mornings I walk to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, I do my best to avoid him.
I know, as a Christian, I should not avoid contact with this man. I know Jesus, and John Wesley, would expect me to go out of my way to do what I can to help him. But all I want to do is get my coffee and get back to my office as quickly as possible.
Today I was in an all-day staff meeting. We began the day with devotions led by one of my colleagues. He told us to take a walk for 10 minutes and think about what we are thankful for. I decided to walk around the block. I left the building and turned left, heading towards Starbucks. To save time I decided to walk down the alley. That’s when I realized I could not avoid the homeless guy.
As I approached he smiled and waved at me. When I got closer he asked if I had any spare change. I don’t like to give cash to people on the street so I declined to give him anything. He smiled and said, “Maybe next time.” Then he said, “If you’re going by CVS, I could sure use a bottle of Gatorade.” I replied, “I’m late for a meeting and don’t have time.” He said, “That’s okay. Have a good day.”
As I continued walking I remembered a passage in the Works of John Wesley. It may have been in one of his letters or in his journal. Perhaps it’s in one of his sermons. He wrote about how works of mercy are just as much means of grace as works of piety. In fact, at times, they may be even more important. Wesley wrote something to the effect that if you are on your way to a class meeting or worship service and encounter a hungry person, then you are obligated to stop and help; even if doing so means you will be late, or miss, your meeting. I suspect he also made reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Realizing that I would probably be late returning to the staff meeting, I ran into CVS, purchased a bottle of Gatorade, and brought it to the man in the wheelchair directing traffic at the Starbucks parking lot. He smiled and said, “Thanks! Have a blessed day.” I didn’t mind being a little late. I also knew that bringing him that bottle of cold sports drink was something I could not not do. It was my obligation as a professing Christian, and a long-time member of a Covenant Discipleship group.
As I reflect on the experience I am convinced my ability to respond as I did is the result of years of accountability for my discipleship. For years I’ve lived with a covenant clause that says, “We will seek out ways to show compassion to all people and all God’s creation.” This morning the Holy Spirit led me to a man in a wheelchair in the hot sun that needed a cold drink. The years of accountability for discipleship helped me realize helping that man was more important my need to get to my staff meeting on time.
How has accountability for witnessing to Jesus Christ in the world and following his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit changed you? How has it changed your congregation?