July 7, 2014: He Looks Like He Could Kill

Posted on : Jul 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Still Speaking

There is an old expression, “If looks could kill.” It came out of a time when society was more civil than today. Years ago, when people were not pleased with something someone said, one would give the other “a dirty look.” When someone was really angry, and gave a really nasty look, people would say, “If looks could kill!” The implication was that the recipient would be dead.

Today we tend to look at people differently. Especially in urban environments, our judgmental glances are more like, “He looks mean.” Or, “She looks dangerous.” Or, “He looks like he could kill.”

We have these experiences a lot in our ministry with the homeless. Some folks come to the gate for a lunch and they look like they could take you out. Some folks are so dirty and smelly that you cringe. Yet after you start talking with folks, you discover they are really very kind people. We’d never know that if the church hadn’t brought them – even forced them – into our lives.

Matt Fitzgerald, the Pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL., tells of a similar experience in his church. Something tells me they do not do quite as much homeless ministry as we do, but he makes a great point. God is within each of us, regardless of “how we look.” Our job is to see that.

The Apostle Paul said, “The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and it is there.” (Romans 1: 19 – The Message translation) Ironically, those words are only four verses before one of the “clobber texts” that has often been used against LGBT persons for centuries. Go figure! Fear does strange things to all of us.

Many Sundays, before the scripture lesson is read, we sing, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, God.   Open the Eyes of My Heart.” How true those words are. God is right there in front of us, yet fear keeps us from seeing. Open the eyes of our hearts, God.   Open the eyes of our hearts.






The Eyes of My Eyes are Opened
Matt Fitzgerald

“The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!” – Romans 1:19

I have a friend whose house looks out on an island. He said, “I don’t need to go to church. I already know how to look at the island.” He knows how to be awestruck, maybe even grateful. So why go to church?

Well, church teaches us see more than beauty. It teaches us to see ourselves.

Each year at the end of my congregation’s rummage sale homeless men and women shop “for free.” My job is to guard the door while they assemble. Last summer there were about eighty people waiting and more than thirty minutes to wait. The crowd was restless. I folded my arms and tried to look stern. I felt scared.

The first man in line was rough, long ponytail, torn leather jacket. Tough as nails. We stood two feet from each other in dead silence. At least five minutes passed.

Then he spoke up. “You want to see a picture of my kids?” They were beautiful, of course. Twins. Two-year-old girls. He had about a dozen photos. “I’m here to get them beds. I’d wait all day.” He smiled.

And when he did I saw him for who he truly was. And I saw my fear for what it truly was and I felt myself indicted and enlightened, both at once. That’s what church can do. It can help us see the beauty all around us – and the brokenness inside us.

Dear God, break me open with your vision. Then let your beauty in. Amen.

Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.

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