“…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40

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Text of homily delivered by the Rev. Magrey deVega at the dedication of the “Homeless Jesus” sculpture, Feb. 10, 2016.
Based on Matthew 25:31-40

These words of Jesus are among the most haunting in the entire gospel. Because they illuminate an inherent problem in the human condition that affects all of us. We favor those who are like ourselves, and we avoid those who are different from us. We associate with those who agree with our point of view and similar to our background and our interests. But those who are different from us, in social status, ethnic heritage, religion, sexuality, age, gender, or any of a wide range of labels and categories: these are people we would rather ignore.

But on this day, Ash Wednesday, we remember that we are not all that different. All of us are made of the same ashes and dust. We are all grounded in earth, and connected to each other. And therefore it is only in seeking the welfare of others can we find wellness in ourselves.

Matthew 25 is therefore ultimately a call for justice. It demands that all of us care for the least fortunate among us: the poor, the naked, the hungry, the imprisoned. This alone is not unique. There are many other places in the Bible where we are given similar commands. But notice something: this text does not tell us how to solve homelessness, or how to address poverty. Instead, it reminds us that the starting point for any solution is how we see the poor. In how we see Jesus in them, and how we see them as ultimately no different from us.

This is not say that specific strategies and solutions don’t matter.

Do we need to increase our efforts to serve the homeless and treat them with dignity? Of course.

Do we need to raise support and increase funding to serve the poor? Absolutely.

Do we need to partner with others in the community to address systemic issues that encumber the destitute from breaking out of their poverty? No question.

But Matthew 25 reminds us that for any solution to be most effective, it must begin with the one factor that is of inestimable worth: Seeing in the faces of the poor the face of Jesus himself.

And that is why this “Homeless Jesus” sculpture matters. It matters because public art has a way of bringing to our consciousness that which we would rather overlook. It matters because it is a polemical statement against the injustices that keep people down. It matters because it will be an enduring symbol of homelessness in our community. But most of all, it matters because it reminds us to overcome our differences, to find Jesus in each other, and then serve and love each other, for only then can we build the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.

It is a sentiment beautifully echoed by my predecessor, Rev. Roger Scholz, who the sculptor of this work first approached last Spring. Roger sent me these words to share with you today:

Warmest greetings from South Africa to all the wonderful people of God at Hyde Park. Your ongoing desire to find creative and innovative ways of making God’s love real remains a source of deep inspiration to others of us around the world. Today’s installation of the Homeless Jesus sculpture at The Portico is a further expression of this beautiful sentiment, as you boldly declare that in the homeless, the marginalized and the vulnerable in your midst, the presence of Christ can be recognized. Be assured of our love and prayers as you continue to offer this faithful witness. Roger and Leigh Scholtz

Friends, the next time you see a stranger, or see someone who is different from you, or see a homeless person, remember this sculpture. Remember to see Jesus in them. And then find a way to love them, to serve them, and to make God’s love real to them.


 

‘Homeless Jesus’ Featured in Local and National Media Outlets

Tampa Bay Times
Editorial by Senior Pastor Magrey deVega featured in Tampa Tribune
Tampa Tribune
Florida United Methodist Church Conference
Fox 13
CNN story on original sculpture

Information about the ‘Homeless Jesus’ Sculpture and our Homeless Ministry

Read our 20-year Homeless Ministry Narrative at Hyde Park United Methodist


All photos courtesy of the Hyde Park United Methodist volunteer Photography Team

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