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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Taking it to the Streets
March 25, 2010

Much of Jesus’ ministry was conducted on public thoroughfares such as streets and waterways. He went to where the people are, especially where the needy are.

Most afternoons on the way home, I pass people standing on the side of the road, begging for work or food. It was the same in Jesus’ day – needy people gravitated to the streets looking for a handout. He also spent time in synagogues and people’s houses, but his ministry is most notable for the amount of time he spent on the streets. That’s where the needy are most likely to be found, so that is where he chose to hang out.

Palm Sunday is Jesus’ last street appearance until the day of his crucifixion. On Palm Sunday he enters Jerusalem as “king of the road,” perched on a donkey, his pathway festooned with cloaks and palms. But being “king of the road” isn’t such a grand thing, after all. It means that he is king of the street people, of society’s losers. And it’s a fickle crowd – today they adore him, tomorrow they will spurn him. And he knows it, even amid all their cries of acclaim. Like us, they have a problem with living up to the value system they so lustily proclaim. Like us, they turn away all too easily from their declared commitments when things start to go against them.

By taking his message and ministry to the streets, Jesus shuns the pathways of influence in halls of power. In fact, he is so inconsequential to the “real” powers of his day that when they go to arrest him, they don’t even know what he looks like – thus their need for Judas to identify him with a kiss. He has no need to be a power player in his world; it is enough for him to meet the needs of those on the street who need help the most.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Through the course of this week, Jesus moves from the street to the temple, from the temple to a house, from a house to a garden, and from the garden to the judgment hall. He doesn’t hit the street again until he is carrying his cross to Calvary. He begins the week in daylight, and each day moves to a progressively darker place. Nearly all of his ministry has been conducted in the daylight, but during Holy Week we see him moving increasingly into the night. Street ministry naturally leads us to ministry in places of darkness, where the need for light is most acute. It is most fitting during Holy Week that we join with Jesus in taking the gospel to the streets, preparing ourselves there to encounter the depths of darkness in which all too many people live.

During Holy Week 2010 we have an opportunity to take our witness to the streets, literally. The “House of Manna,” a new church development of Pittsburgh Presbytery, is sponsoring a public street prayer event on Good Friday, from 9:00-11:00 AM. Beginning at the Coliseum on Frankstown Avenue near Homewood Avenue, the event will spill out into the streets where people from every walk of life, denomination and religion will be invited to join together in open air prayer for Pittsburgh in general, and for the Homewood neighborhood in particular. What better way to spend our Good Friday than to join sisters and brothers in praying for our city right on the streets where its deepest needs are so clearly evident? I invite you to join me there as we take our witness to God’s boundless love to the streets, in Jesus’ name.

In Jesus’ company,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery

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