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In high school I remember learning that a high percentage of the homeless in the United States were Gulf War veterans. This shocked, and caused my deacon’s heart to ache. Similarly, my heart would ache win I would hear stories about veterans not getting the best of treatment from the Veterans Affairs. There are so many things that are often overlooked when it comes to our veterans. When we consider the time, the sacrifices, the injuries seen and unseen, they deserve better.
The television show, Beverly Hills, 90210 covered this topic in 1993. One of the characters, Brandon, meets a homeless vet on the beach one summer. The homeless man, Jack, served in the first Gulf War. When he returned home, he found himself homeless. Later in the season, Brandon meets Jack again in the midst of a massive rain storm. Brandon takes the man to a homeless shelter, but Jack is unable to assimilate. In response, Brandon takes Jack to his home to meet his family.
- How would you respond to a homeless person?
- How does it make you feel to know that among our homeless are veterans?
- Read Isaiah 58. What do you hear Isaiah saying in these passages?
- In writing about this passage, scholar Paul Hanson uses the phrase “compassionate justice.” What does that phrase mean to you?
- How were Brandon’s actions in the video an example of compassionate justice?
- Reread Isaiah 58:6-7. What stands out to you?
- How would you and your family respond to a homeless person? Your church?
The Hebrew word mispat could be described as compassionate justice. To seek mispat is to be concerned about justice for all of God’s children. To seek mispat is to be compassionate toward all of God’s children. In the video clip, Brandon fulfills mispat by seeking to set a place at the dinner table for Jack, the homeless vet.
Paul Hanson writes about Isaiah 58:
The appeal is an impassioned one to the heart of the community. It is a plea to reclaim authentic humanity by replacing cold, calculating self-interest with acts of living-kindness that restore genuine communal solidarity.
What Isaiah begs us to remember is that it is not about us. It is about loving God and loving others. Our worship is not complete unless we too give bread to the hungry and clothe the naked. The Word proclaimed is not whole until we respond with compassionate justice.
I know that not everyone is going to be comfortable bringing a homeless person into their home. But what are other ways you can respond with compassionate justice? There are countless ways to offer help or advocate for. For some ideas, you can check out some suggestions from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Lord, guide our steps as we continue our worship as we seek compassionate justice for all of your children. May your Holy Spirit open our hearts to those who are homeless and the hungry. May your Spirit guide us to respond to the needs of others as you would. Amen.