O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Street Version

A guest named Emmanuel inspired me to sing the other day.


O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And shower now for free at Manna House.

Remove that grit and grime and slime,

And get so clean that you will brightly shine.


Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall shower for free at Manna House.

O come, though homeless from the streets,

To share with us some coffee and sweet treats.

May we share this place with you,

That we about the streets may get a clue.


O come, Thou with the staff of life,

And leave the streets and their nasty strife.

From the depths of hell thy people save,

And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Person of Divine Light,

And raise our spirits in this dark night.

Disperse the clouds of despair and hate,

And knock down all the walls and closed gates.


O come, Thou Key of David come,

And open wide a warm place to stay;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,

And to the powers that be give fright.

In this time give us true law,

In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Ruler with majesty,

Be a sign that all people should be free.

Before Thee rulers silent fall;

All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, fulfill our deepest hopes,

Help us against the dealers of dope.

Bid all our struggles cease,

And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Come All You Who Are Thirsty

I occasionally like to paraphrase Scripture. The word for the day was Isaiah 55:1, “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters for coffee and showers; and you who have no money come, enjoy the free coffee! Come buy showers, clothes, socks, and hygiene items without money and without cost!”

Or as a very young volunteer shouted from our front porch twelve years ago when we first opened, “Free coffee for sale!”

This is God’s economy, where there is more than enough for everybody, if we share. It runs completely counter to most, if not all, human economies, where there is not enough for everybody. And since there is not enough for everybody, we must incessantly compete with one another, and hoard against shortages in order to survive.

It is hard for both guests and volunteers, including myself, to believe in God’s economy, even as we share hospitality premised upon that economy. Manna House could not exist without people sharing their presence and their goods. Without donors who give from their abundance, we could not offer hospitality to the hundred plus people who show up every day that we are open. And although Manna House did not participate in “Giving Tuesday,” we certainly do rely completely upon donations to stay open, and to share freely coffee, showers, and clothing, and on Monday nights, a meal.

Yet, that freedom in God’s economy, that free giving, is challenged by the gods of not enough. These gods of not enough urge us to prioritize control over compassion, and domination over the dignity of each person.

I see the worship of the gods of not enough in the current tax bill being proposed by the ruling party in Washington, D.C. I see this worship of the gods of not enough in the fear and even loathing of immigrants and any who are defined as “other”—Muslims, African Americans, Native Americans, LGBTQ people, and people in poverty. The gods of not enough encourage a vision of scarcity, of fighting over a shrinking pie. These gods love when we get possessed by possessiveness, and we become more concerned about what is mine, rather than recognizing the divine call to share what we have been given by God—life, and every good gift we have.

So it was that a guest at Manna House erupted in anger and a volley of foul language accusing two other guests of stealing her cigarettes. Years of not having enough, of being denied the basic necessities of life, of scraping and struggling to survive, burst forth in a cry from the heart of betrayal and loss and grief. There was no consoling of her, no reasoning that could reach her, no words of comfort that could pierce her sense of loss. Not even another guest’s offering to her of some cigarettes could calm her. She finally left, vowing revenge upon those whom she accused of the theft; both of whom denied any role in the matter.

So it is when as a volunteer I fear being taken advantage of by a guest who comes in asking for a coat or shoes (two of the more desired items these days). So it is when I fear I am being too soft in adding a fifty-second person to the “socks and hygiene” list when we normally are to take only fifty-one.

So it is when twenty people are arrested at a Memphis business and taken away because of the Trump administration’s crackdown on “illegals”—that is undocumented immigrants. So it is when fake videos of “evil Muslims” are spread by a president who plays upon fears and divisions.

The gods of not enough are gathering more adherents, and the God of Jesus Christ who urges us to see God in “the least of these” is mocked, denied, crucified.

I have to hold to the Word of that God, a Word that affirms there is plenty, that God is a God of abundance and not scarcity, of grace and not harsh judgment. Better yet, I have to be held by that Word, transformed, and gifted to see that I am invited, that we are invited, to a feast, free and without charge. “Come all you who are thirsty.”