In the gospel of Mark, uniquely so far as I can tell, the evening after the triumphal entry to Jerusalem Jesus walks into the city and goes to the Temple, looking around at everything. I have always imagined that he looked around not just inside the Temple about around him at the streets as he walked along. This week as I have walked to and from work each day, I have been looking around me, at sights that are, for now, new and different, but will all too soon become essentially wallpaper. There are interesting and intriguing shops just waiting to be explored (especially those that sell books!), there are closed shops waiting to be turned into yet another supermarket. Then there are the people I begin to recognise: the girl in the pancake shop preparing surfaces for the day ahead, the man in the coffee shop waiting for early customers... and the beggars.
This is what has surprised me most - there are lots of beggars along the road I walk each day. An older, eastern European (?) woman with a mouth organ who sits in the bus shelter, a younger man who poses with one copy of the big issues only yards from where the official Big Issue vendor stands, an elderly man who sits close to the ATM silently holding out his paper cup. And here am I, on my way to prepare worship, to think fine thoughts in a warm, dry office. I wonder what Jesus would do on my situation?
I was reminded of a verse of a hymn written by Alison Micklem when she was a student in Manchester, which reflects some of this tension:
As I pass you on the pavement
I avoid your stricken eyes;
Jesus tells me your my sister,
But you're hard to recognise.
I can love you in the abstract,
Face to face it's hard to do:
Jesus bids me love my neighbour,
Do I have to start with you?
It isn't so easy, is it, practising what we preach? But then Jesus never said it would be. I hope that my eyes will stay open enough to see what God needs to show me.