What does that story we’ve just heard in our gospel reading tell us about the Kingdom of heaven?
There are many things the image of a wedding feast might suggest to us, but the most obvious, the most basic, I think, is this. If the Kingdom of heaven is like a wedding feast, then being a Christian is not something we do on our own. Being a Christian is about being in community with others. And it is about inviting others to join in the feast that God prepares for us. It prompts us to meet together and to reach out to those outside whom God wants to call, and feed, and nourish.
I’d like to speak this morning briefly if I may about an important way in which our parish has sought for many years to reach out to others as a way of showing God’s love. I want to bring you up to date on some important news and ask for you help.
I’m talking about our participation in the work of the homeless charity C4WS. For quite a few years now, we have helped staff one of their homeless shelters on a Sunday night through the winter. The system works like this. 7 churches come together and each agrees to offer their building as a homeless shelter for one night a week.
Because of problems with our heating, we have generally helped man the shelter that operates out of Pond Square URC church. Volunteers turn up to welcome our homeless guests, cook them a meal, and then two volunteers sleep over night with the guests and are relieved by a fresh crew of people in the morning who make breakfast.
C4WS then does extensive work with the guests during the day to help them find permanent accommodation and register for benefits so they can put their lives back together again and get a home and a job.
To cut a very long story short, it will not be possible to run these homeless shelters in churches this winter because of the strictures imposed upon us by COVID. C4WS has come up with an amazing idea to get us through this winter. Basically, they are going to take over a cheap hotel in Victoria and run the homeless shelter out of one building, with each guest in a room of their own to ensure social distancing.
The most basic thing we need is this: volunteers. We need to communicate to C4WS how many people we have who are prepared to help.
We need people to do all the usual jobs that we’ve undertaken already: preparing meals, sleeping over night, but also now people to help with laundry and keeping the hotel squeeky clean so it’s COVID secure. The same basic premise will appertain that we try to support the hostel on Sunday nights. But, if you want to volunteer for another night, that will, I’m sure, be welcome. There’s a list at the back of church for you to put your name and the broad contours of how and when you’d be happy to volunteer. I’ll then communicate this to the C4WS organisers in a few weeks’ time.
Supporting the work of C4WS is a really important way in which you and I can live out our Christian calling to make a difference in the world. Being a Christian isn’t just about what you believe or how you worship. It’s also about how you live and what you do.
I can say personally that my interaction with the homeless guests I have helped to welcome has been one of the most moving experiences of my life. I realised the people I was welcoming were in many ways no different from you or me. They just happened to have been dealt a different hand of cards by life and ended up without a home.
I urge you to think about whether you might be able to support C4WS in this important work. There isn’t much good news on the TV and in the papers at the moment. But if we can do something small to show God’s love in the world, then we will have shown that our world need not be consumed by hate and fear, and that God’s love extends to everyone. Every single person: no matter who they are; where they come from; how they have lived their life; or what need they happen to be in.
Fr Peter Anthony