Some of you know my story. I wont drag you through all the details, but I’m in long term recovery. I spent years as the person you saw out of the corner of your eye. You know, as you bustle about your workday or day off. Leaned against a wall. On the ground. Sometimes I had a sign, most the time I didn’t. Sometimes I would ask for money, other times I sat in a strange haze. Listening to the comments that people said right out of ear shot. “He was dressed too nice to be homeless.” Because clearly the combination of opiates, amphetamines, or towards the end booze (by the “end” I mean the last ten years of this nightmare) was a get rich quick scheme. I often woke up with visions of shadows and demons, shaking hands, and a racing level of anxiety that whipped me into a frenzy to quiet all this even if just for an hour.
But this post isn’t about me. I just wanted to be honest about my context and possible bias. I also want you to know that I have an authentic voice with this. Church, what are we doing to slow this tide of the forgotten? Do you have a recovery support meeting in your Church basement? Name three people from that group other than the contact person. I’ll wait.
If you can’t, I would offer that you have failed. You have failed Jesus in the guise of a kid sitting with a hypodermic in his pocket, and a sign in his hand. If you don’t have a recovery support meeting in your Church I would say you are actually working in direct contradiction to the Gospel.
I have watched addiction become a health issue as it washed up on the shores of white suburbia. It was criminal where I grew up, but now its an epidemic. I get it. I’m not even going to harp about the fact that whites even get the privilege of overdosing better than I do. Surrounded by love and programs wanting to change things. But Church we haven’t taken the lead. There are smatterings of hope. Common Ground an ELCA ministry aimed at those in recovery in Reading PA. Others throughout the country. Their work is incredible and should continue of course. But why do we need to reminded to actually be Church?
If you wont save your own children. If you can’t see your own daughter as more than a junkie, what chance do I stand? Church we are losing. We don’t need to be.
The Holy Gospel According to John the 11th Chapter
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Church. When we roll back the stone of addiction. When we gaze into the tomb of alcoholism. As we see the already stiff rotting body of our children, the stench will wash over us. It will be messy, and ugly. It will bring up the sting of death to a family you sit in congregation with. It will be risky. You will lose something. I guarantee something will be lost. But what we will gain as Church? We will believe and see the glory of God. We will find that resurrection has been happening in our Church basements and we are missing it.
So since I hardly ever offer direct actions one can take in this blog, this week I want to offer something. First I want you to stand outside the recovery meeting at your own Church. Not inside. Your basement has become sacred space for the stranger and you are not invited in. It will be easy to spot who you are going to meet. There will be Styrofoam cups full of coffee and plenty of cigarettes being smoked. There will be laughter. I want you to greet every person that you can. That wants to talk to you. I want you tell them that you are a member of the Church where they meet and the work they are doing is incredible and important. I want you to listen to as much of their story they are willing to share. I want you tell them that they are loved and prayed over. I want you to do this more than once. When their meeting starts I want you to leave. Comeback the next week. Do it over again. I want you to sweep up Jesus’s cigarettes butts. I want you to do this with a cheerful heart. To clean up after your Savior and his messy work.
Next I want you to find the nearest drug corner. Your sweet quaint town has one. Stop lying to yourself, how else have your children started down the road of forgotten death? I want you to inform whoever you need to that you are going to be there for safety. I want you and the Church to go alone. Bring a guitar. I want you to light candles and pray. Sing hymns. I want you to remember those that have been taken. I want you to remember the casualties of the War on Drugs are now your children. That they are Jesus. That Jesus just bought a bad batch of heroin. He just shot up and he is falling into a sleep he will never wake up from. I want you to do this more then once. I always suggest doing this at Friday at 5-8PM. Nothing like disrupting drug trade with hymns. I want you to take a risk.
I want you to reflect on this Holy Week that there can be two empty tombs in your community. The tomb of addiction can be filled with resurrection power. The tomb of our shameful sin of neglect and inaction also. This is a start. Your children are dying.