A Sermon from a Homeless Man
by Reggie Johnson
I stepped up to his bedside with a mission. As hundreds of complete strangers walked by, I stooped down to talk to the old man on the street corner. He had some sort of padding that was made up like a bed, an old coffee can that he used for begging, and a small paper bag that looked like it had some bread in it. It seemed as though these items and the clothes on his back were his only earthly possessions.
His name is AJ. I handed him a “toonie” (a Canadian two-dollar coin) and he thanked me. But that wasn’t enough for me. With the 57th General Conference Session taking place just one block away at the SkyDome, I had to know if any of the Seventh-day Adventists had witnessed to him. “Has anyone talked to you about Jesus and His Second Coming?” I asked. “All the time,” he said with a smile, “and I don’t mind it one bit.”
I breathed a sigh of relief—relief from the fear that none of the more than 60,000 attendees of the Conference had stopped long enough to share the good news about Jesus Christ; relief from the fear that no one had offered him anything more valuable than money; and relief from the fear that while the delegates and members focused so hard on the business of the church that they might neglect to reach out to one soul in need, right on their doorstep.
Then he went on to say, “I know that Jesus is coming soon,” dispelling my misconception that he merely tolerated the religious propaganda people had offered him. “None of these people here know it,”—he motioned to the endless crowds walking past him on the street— “but I know it.” He went on to talk about those who would be “banging on the gates” after the door was closed. At the time, of course, I assumed that his general referral to “those people” excluded the large numbers of Seventh-day Adventists walking by since this church has the message of the Second Advent. But since then I’ve had time to think.
When the Old Testament talks about “knowing” God, it uses the Hebrew word yadá. This word carries a much stronger meaning than simply “to know.” It is a much more intense word than its English counterpart. It denotes a personal, intimate contact and connection. Sometimes I fear that we only know that Jesus is coming soon, when we ought to really know (yadá) that Jesus is coming soon!
If we really knew that Jesus is coming, we would be spending every waking minute working for the glory of God and His kingdom. We wouldn’t care about personal possessions or status. All that would matter would be sharing this great news with the whole world—not only with native villages in third-world countries, but with the man who sells you the paper in the morning or the lady who stops you on the street to ask for the time. Knowing that Jesus is coming means wanting to share this message with everyone you work with, everyone you play with, your family, your friends. And guess what? That includes every person on this planet! Because knowing God is the only way to stay connected to reality—the true reality.
“He takes care of me,” said AJ. You know, I think God has really blessed him. Just think, the man doesn’t have a possession in this world. Well, maybe that’s what it takes to help a person realize that there are no real possessions in this world. We are all equally poor on our own, but can be equally rich in the kingdom of God by His grace. Thank you AJ. I’ll see you soon.
Reggie Johnson is a senior communication and religion major at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI.
Photos should be available in the package of photos.