Homeless persons memorial 2017

​We come together tonight to remember and grieve. In a few minutes we will read the names of more than fifty men and women who died this year on the streets of Pinellas County. Collectively we knew many of these people and we mourn their loss. Some of the women and men whom we remember tonight were basically alone in the last years of their lives and others were well known in the community.

What everyone whose name we read had in common is that they were a child of God and they were homeless. Each person had a story. Some of the deceased grew up in loving, supportive homes, some grew up in troubled families exposed to trauma too young. Some of the people we remember tonight grew up in Florida; others came from far away following family or opportunity. Each person had their own story and way of looking at the world.

Each person landed on hard times for one reason or another: an abusive relationship, a lost job, medical bills, an addiction or mental illness for which they couldn’t find adequate treatment.

Each of the people we have lost had unique possibilities, special gifts to offer to the world if the world had been ready to received them. Some of the people who died on the street this year could have written a book or mentored a child. Many of the people who died this past year were important friends who helped someone else make it through the year. Every person who died on the street was a precious child of God who deserved a better ending than they got, so we remember and we grieve.

 As we remember those lives lost we celebrate the beauty in each life. We celebrate the small moments of connection, a kind word they said to us when we needed encouragement, a memory of working together, of cleaning a kitchen or serving a meal together. We celebrate all that was holy and precious and good in the lives we remember tonight.

We remember too that this season of Christmas is about the story of God becoming human. Becoming human not as a mighty king or a wealthy landlord, but as a poor, immigrant child. We remember that at Christmas the mother of Jesus couldn’t find space at and inn, so she delivered her child in a barn. We remember that God couldn’t find a home when God reached out to us in love.

We also celebrate the beauty and holiness in each of us. Each one of us is a beloved child of our creator. Each of us has unique gifts to offer the world. No matter what we are going through, no matter what anyone says to us or how anyone treats us, we have the divine spark inside us. We celebrate God’s love for us and we seek to trust that love more deeply. We seek to build lives of beauty on the foundation of the divine love that fills and surrounds us.

And we rededicate ourselves to work for a better world. God has given gifts to each of us. Each of us has unique abilities, unique experiences that have shaped us to make a difference in the world. We resolve not to take those gifts for granted.

We resolve that we will not be complacent with the status quo. We will seek to follow God’s love in action. We refuse to be OK with our sisters and brothers dying on the street. We refuse to be OK with the wealthiest nation in history leaving the poor to suffer. We refuse to believe society’s version of what matters: wealth and status and power.

Instead we resolve to believe that all people, ourselves included, are precious children of God. We resolve to value ourselves and to value others. We resolve to put our faith into action by feeding the hungry, by working together to make the world a little bit more gentle and beautiful and loving. As a community we can do better than we are doing right now, and by God’s grace, we will.

Today we look around. We remember the lives of those who died outside. We remember them and we mourn their loss. We remember and we celebrate their lives. We remember and we dedicate ourselves to love in action. Love is our calling and love is our charge, today and for the rest of our lives.

Homeless persons memorial 2017

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