By Garrett Vickrey
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
In divinity school my urban ministry class took a pilgrimage to New York City. No, not to Broadway or the Empire State Building. We were in the streets, in the soup kitchens, and in the churches who open their doors to the poor each day.
One bedroom apartment rentals in New York City average about 750 square feet and cost about $2700 per month. That’s a lot of money, especially if you are making minimum wage. These days people are looking for extra sources of income to make ends meet. Or perhaps to just get their daily bread. Many have turned to redemption. But, perhaps not the kind of redemption you are thinking of.
While in New York City I met several homeless people who spent their days combing through trashcans and roaming the streets in search of bottles and cans to “redeem” for $.05 each. In fact, HBO even produced a documentary about these redeemers a few years ago.
This may not be the kind of redemption the psalmist had in mind here in Psalm 107, but these verses provide hope for these redeemers nonetheless because these words are a reminder to us that God is faithful and that his steadfast love endures forever.
These redeemers who roam the streets of New York walk by a lot of closed doors. The poor may feel like they are being pushed off the island. They roam the streets passing building after building— closed door after closed door.
But, there are places of rest within the concrete jungle. Where steeples stand in the shadows of skyscrapers. And under these steeples there are open doors where redeemers of cans can meet the redeemer of people. There they can meet people who not only offer daily bread, but daily offer the bread of life.
Last week I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said, “Jesus recycles people”. What an image. Lest we begin to conjure heaven’s blue bins, it would have been better to go with the more traditional— Jesus redeems.Jesus redeems because he values us, his brothers and sisters. Jesus redeems the can-collectors in the streets and the executives in skyscrapers because both are precious in his sight.Do you feel redeemed or recycled? Perhaps the psalmist offers us a tip for experiencing redemption:
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
In days when it seems like all the doors are shut in your face where do you find rest and peace? Where do you find the one coming to you who once said, “I am a door”. That’s the redeemer. And perhaps if we look at our lives through the lens of thanksgiving we might be able to comb through the messiness of life to find redemption everyday.