Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
Refuge for the poor
Rev. Rachel Shepherd
You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge.
Reflection: The Lord is the refuge of the poor. A shelter. A safe space.
People with housing often take this safety for granted, but people who are homeless don’t have refuge in the same way. Soup kitchens and homeless shelters seek to offer safety to people experiencing homelessness — and sometimes they do. But sometimes, residents are subject to violence, theft, harsh rules and regulations, proselytizing, or assumptions about their gender or sexuality. Ask someone why they sleep outside and you will likely hear a story about a bad experience at a shelter. A self-created space, no matter how temporary or exposed, often serves as a refuge more meaningfully than a shelter where strangers who have never known poverty set the tone and the rules.
The Lord is the refuge of the poor and always will be. But God doesn’t have to be someone’s only refuge. We can do a better job of creating physical space for people without homes. We can work with people experiencing homelessness to reimagine the spaces they share.
Let’s admit that we sometimes confound the plans of the poor — when we make assumptions about their past, present, or future; when we don’t trust them to have money or space of their own; when we cram them into shelters where they stand in line to enter and are rushed to get out. Instead, let’s listen to the plans of the poor, let’s believe what they say they need and want, and let’s work together to create the refuge they envision.
Action: Take a look at the organizations addressing homelessness in your community. If you know a shelter or organization that works with homeless people and doesn’t have any in their leadership structure, that’s one simple place to start: put people on the board, at the table, in the room where it happens.
Prayer: Dear God, you are the refuge of the poor, yet so often we confound each other’s plans. Help us trust each other and hear every voice at your table. Guide us in every decision we make. Amen.
Rev. Shepherd is Associate Presbyter for Discipleship in the Presbytery of the Peaks. She bakes occasionally, writes when possible, and always wonders what her dog is thinking.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.