Like all violent deaths, it had not come at an opportune time. She had two small kids by two different fathers and had just moved in with her mother in an effort to “get herself straightened out” and to be with her babies. Things were just looking up when she was walking across the street and a drunk driver sped over a hill, 20mph too fast and hit her, dragging her half a block.
She was well liked in the circles I travel in, so her death was all anyone talked about for several days. Talk included speculating over the fate of the drunk driver, the fate of her babies, and whether she was in heaven or not. It took up most of my time that week.
The day of the funeral was a hectic one. She was buried by the city, which means no wake at the funeral home, no viewing of the body the night before, none of that. There was just a graveside service, an open casket, a boom box playing a hip-hop re-mix of “In The Garden” and some ratty looking artificial flowers.
And the church people. That is what my homeless friends called them, anyway. They belong to a suburban evangelical church. They come downtown and pass out food and judgment every weekend to all who show up. They came to my friend’s funeral, passing out free tickets for a “Judgment Play” they’re going to have Easter Weekend. One told me they are “praying for 1000 decisions for Christ” at this extravaganza. And then they left, right before the preacher started up. I was standing there with my mouth open, shocked at the nerve.
I have no doubt they thought they were doing outreach. In reality, though, they missed the best chance for outreach they could have had. They left before the preaching started. They were not there when before the mournful wails made by a mother who lost her daughter to a senseless act of stupidity. They were not there when the bereaved boyfriend bared his soul, when the friend said gave the eulogy, when the childhood friend read the passage from Ecclesiastes.
They missed out on all of that. If they had stayed and heard the good news, the echoes of the promise of resurrection, in the lament, in the eulogy, in the hearts laid bare, perhaps they would have made a decision a 1000 times better than the one they peddle. We’ve decided on grace not judgment, on presence not programs. The faith that informs what we do at Love Wins, the container for community we seek to build, is deeper and stronger than the grave because it rests not on individuals deciding to agree to certain theological perspective, but on God deciding that God has a plan and that plan is us.