Series: The Outsiders
Title: The Homeless
September 9, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
This year in America, more than 2.5 million children and their parents will experience homelessness. Las Vegas has one of the highest homeless populations in the country. In January, nearly 6500 homeless people were counted in the annual census. I don’t know if you know this, but teams of counters go out in the predawn hours and count people in parks, alleys, homeless shelters, ditches and tunnels. Although you don’t see many homeless people in Boulder City, they are here.
In January, Tina Ransom with the Boulder City Police reported in her weekly column in the BC Review that it is a “rare day that dispatch doesn’t receive a call, in regard to a disheveled individual acting abnormal, panhandling, looking cold or camping behind a building or in a ditch.” It’s a serious problem. The most common cause of homelessness is substance abuse, particularly opioids, untreated mental health and the lack of affordable housing.
The downward spiral into homelessness often begins with the loss of a job, illness, home foreclosure, or divorce. Major life events that disrupt the very status quo people work so hard to maintain. Most adults see their situation worsening over time and do their best to stop it from happening.
“Youth fall into homelessness for different reasons than adults. Most youth become homeless suddenly and unpredictably because of severe breakdowns in homes or failed institutional systems. Some run away from home or from group homes, believing that life on the streets is better than life they were in. Unfortunately, life on the streets puts young people at an incredible risk for exploitation and abuse. One in three kids on the street will be “lured into survival sex within 48 hours of being on the street.” Homelessness is the No. 1 risk factor of the commercial sexual exploitation of children.”
Many homeless teens are on the street because their parents kicked them out because of their sexuality or gender identity. In fact, recent estimates say that 40% of the 1500 homeless youth in Southern Nevada are part of the LGBTQ community. 
Precursors to homelessness are many and varied: addictions, mental health, economic insecurity, sexuality and gender identity concerns. But also, refugee, Messiah, Son of God. Jesus first experienced homelessness as a baby. He was born into life on the streets of Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph had to rely on the generosity of strangers to put a roof over their heads. I suspect that was a temporary situation, scripture doesn’t say how long they were homeless, but it was stressful no doubt to Jesus’ parents.
Jesus was homeless several times in his lifetime. We know during Jesus itinerant ministry, he was homeless again, relying on friends to house and provide for him. Our scripture today gives us some insight into life on the road with Jesus. Jesus had begun to lead his disciples to Jerusalem for his last showdown with the Jewish leaders. He had spent time preparing them, trying to get them to understand what lay ahead of them.
In Luke 9:21 Jesus told his disciples that “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scries, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Confused by Jesus’ words, they continued to follow him.
As they came to a village of the Samaritans they hoped to find lodging and a place to rest. Unfortunately, they were not welcomed by the locals, and they were asked to move along. It reminds me of how our local law enforcement agency deals with homeless folks. They are quick to offer rides to the next town, over the hill to where there are numerous services for folks who are stranded and alone. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John were quick to respond. “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
An interesting response to being rejected, don’t you think? Had they not learned anything from Jesus? They had been serving with Jesus likely for more than two years. In all that time certainly, they heard Jesus message of love and forgiveness. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus taught to “not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” And in Mark 12:31 Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself.” Did they not remember when Jesus told them “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Suggesting that they should destroy this village implies also that there is no possibility for future repentance. Jesus never gave up on the Samaritans and he never gives up on us. And these boys want to invoke the fire of heaven to come down and consume them. I don’t think so. Sort of makes you feel a little better when we forget the Jesus way and fall into old habits. Even those who were face to face with Jesus got it wrong from time to time. And Jesus let them know. Rebuked is what he did, you don’t ever want to be rebuked by Jesus, just saying. And just like that, they moved along, walking to the next town.
While they were on their way, someone in the crowd that was walking with them enthusiastically said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” I remember when I first answered the call to ministry and my pastor, Pastor Mike, asked me, “will you go to the cross with Jesus? Are you willing to carry that load?” It made me stop and think, was I really willing to go where God was calling? Was I then and am I now willing to follow Jesus first and foremost, no matter the obstacles or challenges?
Jesus warned this wannabe disciple, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” I imagine this response caused them to rethink their enthusiasm. “I’ll follow you anywhere, well, maybe not anywhere.” I’d sure like to sleep in a bed at night, maybe come home to my wife and children. Being out on the road for weeks or months at a time isn’t really what I was looking for.
Then Jesus said to another person, “Follow me!” That person hesitated, he had important business to take care of with his father. Family obligations loom large, I’ll follow Jesus when things settle down. My father is dead or in the process of dying and I have to be there to help with the burial. Jesus suggests that he should let the dead bury their own dead, implying that those who do not have a relationship with God, those spiritually dead, should be the ones to take on the task of burying the dead. Those who are spiritually alive, they should “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
The final potential disciple said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” That would be common courtesy wouldn’t it? Why did Jesus criticize him and suggest that he’s unfit for the kingdom of God?
Here Jesus uses metaphor to make his point. “Saying farewell may seem like the necessary thing, but, seen through the metaphor, it is looking back while plowing, a sure cause of a crooked furrow.”
“Following Jesus means leaving home and family in order to share Jesus’ travels and mission.” His followers must be willing to share in his homelessness. Following Jesus isn’t going to be easy and will include times when they are rejected as they were in the Samaritan town.
Jesus sets high standard for his disciples and for us today. We are to follow Christ with singular focus and devotion. How is that possible?
We are called to claim our new home in the Kingdom as followers of Jesus – we have to let go of our former home and look toward our home with God. We may never experience physical homelessness in our lifetime, but spiritual homelessness is likely. I experienced ti myself when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. The time when I stepped away from church and was trying to maintain my relationship with God on my own. I was spiritually homeless.
There are many in our society who are spiritually homeless. A Study completed by LifeWay Research said that 59% of our population had left church for one reason or another. They have exited the home that Christ has prepared for them and are now living on the spiritual streets, looking for significance in their lives. We claim or reclaim the reality of a new home as followers of Jesus. To claim our home in the kingdom requires us to let go of our former home and look toward our new home with God.
We understand that Jesus is calling us to be his disciples and we answer, even though we know the road will be difficult. Some may choose not to answer, they will instead stay back to reevaluate whether they really want to give God their all, or to bury their dead, or say good bye to their family.
We are all invited to leave our old homes behind us, our old habits, old behaviors, things that draw us away from God and to look toward our new home with Christ. Even Jesus was rejected and homeless, he suffered through so much and still he offers us the key to life, he offers himself.
Please come forward now to receive the key, a symbol of the life Jesus offers us. Receive this key as a reminder of our home with God. Please come.
Miriam – play
Jeff – show video
 Luke 9:21-23
 Luke 9:54
 Matthew 5:43
 Luke 9:60
 Luke 9:61