ATLANTA – We love Easter. As followers of Jesus, we love all that it represents. The bunny. The chocolate. The ham. And spring outfits are nice, but what we love about Easter is the Resurrection.
Resurrection means new creation. New creation means new birth. It means the old is now done away with, and now new life is continuously birthed through the power of the Spirit.
Easter dinner for us this year looked different. We live in what is considered an “at-risk” neighborhood. Instead of leaving our neighborhood for Easter we decided, along with some good friends of ours, to stay. We wanted to be with our neighbors on this special day.
We invited neighbors to gather at our house around 4 for a very informal dinner. Promptly at 4, our friends started showing up. And then kids from the neighborhood came. Then many of the young men and women into whom we pour our lives showed up. Next came neighbors who we have been inviting to dinner for two years came. Next thing we knew, there were about 40 people in and around our house. Some were in the yard, jumping on the trampoline. Some were playing corn hole. Wherever they were, they enjoyed really unhealthy food.
Then the highlight: A friend and neighbor who is caught up in the world of selling her body strolled by. We invited her to share some food.
It didn’t hit us until later that night how significant the moment was. Jesus is very clear about welcoming the last, the least and the lost into fellowship. To share food. It was such a joy to welcome this woman into our home for a meal, and to make her feel welcome. What Jesus modeled as table fellowship was becoming a reality.
What a joyful way to celebrate Easter and the Resurrection and new creation, by sharing a meal with this neighbor.
She is beautiful; and probably a lot younger than she looks. Her role in our neighborhood at this present time is to please men who are willing to pay. Wherever she is on the sidewalk or road, if you look around, you will see her man standing close. He is always watching. Always waiting for her to get in to a car. Always anticipating the money she will hand him when she is done.
When we saw her in our dining room, helping herself to ham, side dishes and a drink, it made our Easter Sunday. Even if she was here for only a minute to fill a plate with food, it was one minute not on the street. She was in a safe place where she was welcomed not because of her body but because she is a woman. A woman who is loved by Jesus.
She isn’t a project. She doesn’t need to be fixed. She has a name and she is our neighbor. And she likes ham. So do we.
Maybe next year she won’t take her food “to go.” Maybe next year we will sit next to her on our couch and we’ll eat ham together. That breaking of bread would surely transform our lives. Maybe her life, too.
Maybe all that God calls us to be as neighbors is walk side by side, to sit side by side, with the people who are right next to us. As friends.
Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.