My friend and I shared breakfast with people encamped in our city park. A local congregation and advocacy group rustled up burritos and coffee before the neighborhood protest began. We stood with campers, as a small group of disheartened citizens honked horns, waved humiliating signs, but mostly glared.
I approached each group who had skin in the game to listen and learn. Fear seared their voices, suppressing hope. Homeowners worried about their safety. So did the campers. Park employees found it difficult to care for the park grounds that once hosted rowdy children and resting parents. Police officers honored the right to assemble and speak, but cordoned off opposing groups with yellow tape.
Sam, encamped and unemployed for four months, said that quick fixes without long-term plans are like being thrown a life jacket while swimming in the ocean – you can’t stay afloat for long. The Boise case affirms the right to sleep in public areas when no housing is available. But that doesn’t keep people warm at night. We have rupture but no repair. Not yet.
The words in Isaiah 54: 1-10 speak of rupture and repair between God and Zion, describing an alliance of enveloping grace with people portrayed in shame and humiliation: women who are widowed or childless, outcast for their perceived incompleteness. This passage unveils the full cycle of fragmentation and reconciliation.
The God that reconciled with Zion is still in business. God heals our self-depreciation and silences the distortion of shouting enemies, reconciling us to ourselves and to each other. We are no longer in conflict, we are home. But it’s not a quick fix.
My city isn’t there yet. But I have an active hope, the hope of Advent, that one day everyone’s tent is safely staked, and the yellow tape is down.
This piece first appeared in the Center for Congregational Ethics Lectionary to Life series.
Photo: Paula Mangum Sheridan is sharing a meal with Sam and his beloved dog Coco in a Whittier City park.