Homily from Service on September 25, 2022 – Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
by The Rev. Jennifer McCracken
Sermon preached by The Rev. Jennifer McCracken
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
May the mid May the words of our mouths in the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, oh Lord, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen. Please be seated. Good morning friends. On behalf of the Mana community, I am so grateful to be with you all this morning and a huge thank you to Richard and to Jeanne Adams, and to rob and Mary, for your reflections for the invitation to be here today. I’m delighted to spend the morning with you and especially on the day when you are preparing to feed us at Monday lunch tomorrow. Your faithfulness and feeding us through those critical months of the pandemic is a real testimony to your commitment to gospel living, and caring for people on the margins. We wouldn’t have made it without you all those many months when everything shut down. And we still need your love and care today. I remember several years ago when Jimmy first proposed that all saints wanted to become a new partner with mana by providing a nutritious meal every other month. Reverend Tina and I were beyond grateful for the desire of this parish to be more involved with mana, and to have the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with all of you. That relationship of course, morphed into your unwavering commitment to provide life sustaining meals, during a global pandemic for a whole community of people
who are quite literally starving. I would like to pause just for a moment to grasp the magnitude of your commitment.
Together with you. People were quite literally starving. Thank you. Thank you for bringing food downtown. Thank you for your commitment to preparing the food in a new way and involving new people. Thank you for caring
for all of us at that time. Jesus teaches us what it means to care for our siblings in Christ, rich or poor, by way of love. taking the time out of our busy lives to nourish and provide food for others, especially those for who would for whatever reason cannot provide for themselves is an act of love. It is faith in action, and an act of love that enriches all of us, not just those who are receiving our good care. I learned that lesson through my own relationship with the manna community when I began cooking for the Monday lunch program with Christ Church Needham, almost two decades ago. slowly over time, as my own life took twists and turns drawing me ever deeper into relationship with people experiencing homelessness. I learned that I need the people in the community as much as they need me. Mana continues to help me become more of what God is calling me to be in our shared humanity and helps me break down the barriers that tend to separate us through class, race, gender identity, and all the other ways we create an us and them mentality. One person in particular who has taught me more about love, how to follow Jesus and gospel living is Delphia biz. l Delphia is a member of the back home Council, a council of people with lived experience of homelessness, who advise the Mayor’s Office of Housing, on shelter reform, housing stabilization, and among other things, how to best utilize HUD funding from the federal government. The back home Council was formed out of our weekly mana community meetings back in 2017. As a way of empowering people experiencing homelessness, to advocate for themselves and for their siblings on the street, to have a voice and a place at the table to create change. We cannot and should not exclude the voices of those with lived experience of homelessness when creating policies on temporary shelters and housing and responses to issues surrounding mental health and substance It’s use disorders. Delphia is here with me today to share her own story of how her face sustained her through the tragedy of homelessness and led her into action to help others. By way of love. I am honored, so honored to introduce to you Delphia Bizzell
Good morning. And, and thank you rev gin. I am truly honored and humbled by your kind words, and to be here with all of you. Yes, I am one of the many faces of the voices, the voices and the voices of the homeless. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. To begin with. I am married to a wonderful, kind and spiritual man. He is my rock, the love of my life, and has been for 27 years. We are originally from Kentucky, where I lived most of my life. And Terry for 24 years. The last 16 years from 2001 to 2017. We slowly moved in to my parents home. My father passed away and my mother was experiencing a declining health and dementia. So we took care of her and then she died in April 2017. From now, we did everything we could to keep the house but after several months of struggles, and onset of medical issues and financial burden, we lost our home. That was in November, and we know where to go our turn, we lived in the streets. So as a last resort, my husband Terry said this is not going to work honey, we have to do something. So he reached out to his sister in Boston. She paid our way here and told us we could stay with her. We were happy and saw this as an opportunity or a chance for a fresh start. Get access to better medical care. Get in out of the elements and to have a place where we can with better paying jobs where we could finally achieve a home of our own. This did not happen as planned, because within nine days of after we got here she put us out. It was the first week of December. Cold and 24 inches of snow on the ground. We have nowhere to go. We tried to stay with his cousin in Charlestown. But she to put us out within two weeks. On a weekend in another soul storm. We made our way to the Back Bay area where we slept in the doorway of a star market. And every time someone would come through that door, the wind would rush in freezing us. At we tried to we tried to huddle together to stay warm, to no avail. During this time. My husband Terry never slept because he stayed awake to make sure that I was safe. This went on for about three days with my husband again said this isn’t going to work. We need to get warm. So he helped me walk to a hotel lobby, where again we stayed about three days before the guard noticed us and told us to leave to where we did not know. For I knew nothing about Boston and Terry hadn’t been here in 24 years. So we made our way to Haymarket. Had a cup of coffee, and he said honey find us a shelter. Sadly, we found out there were no shelters in Boston for couples to stay together. We were devastated because in 25 years of marriage, we had never been separated from one another. We were men and wife and buddies. Can you imagine how that will feel being separated from the ones you love. And the only and the only person you know, are relied on in this massive city of Boston. You’re no fault of our own. This is what our destiny were. The closest we could come was words Mullen, a woman shelter, and 110, a men’s shelter about two blocks away.
We had no idea where they were. But we met another couple homeless couple who knew where they were, and told us we could follow them there. It was not easy following them. Because it was dark. There was 24 inches of snow on the ground. I was on a walker, and my chariot and my husband Terry was pulling a suitcase with Warren wills and experiencing his own walking issues because the code was making his legs lock up. We eventually made it to Woods Mullen, and my husband watched me walk into the shelter. And once I was in, and he knew I was safe, and had a bed, sadly awake by him, and watched him walk away in the dark, to five and 12 on his own. I was frightened and worried for him. He found the shelter eventually, and was able to borrow someone’s phone to let me know he was in and safe.
Meaning shelter was like being in prison. You are told when to sleep, when to get up, when to eat. And once you are in,
you can’t leave again until 630 The following morning. Imagine being told these things at 54 and 58 years old age on how to live your life like a child. All your dignity goes out the door. But you don’t dare complain. Because you live under a constant threat of being pulled out of the shelter. Either for a day, a month, a year, or maybe even forever. Young no matter where you are a man or a woman, young or old black or white or in between. The people you live with are addicts mentally ill or just lost. And now a mentality that is us, the clients against them, the staff. So you learn to work the system through the help of your fellow brothers and sisters, your surrogate family that you create in the shelters, who give you support, watch your back and help you to cope. And if you don’t, you lose all hope. You give up and become a statistic. You learn the importance of faith, which instills hope, which gives you strength. And a strong person can never be brought down because you begin to see the bigger picture. That’s why having a support is crucial. Not just support from the surrogate family that you’ve created, but also your extended families such as the frontline staff, doctors, nurses, the communities such as yourselves. Just like the old adage, it takes a village to raise a child. But that same village is needed to end homelessness. My husband and I are approved for this because of the help we receive from people and blessing from God. After two years, we got our own place and have had it for three years now and have become strong advocates for the homeless and voices of the voiceless. Because everyone deserves a home, to be out of the elements to be together as a true family as God has intended us to be homeless. This can happen to anyone. And a homeless person is not a stranger. He or she is your neighbor. And we need each other as our Lord has commanded us. Thank you