Last night was my first night back preaching the Saturday service at BigChurch in Medium City. This is a small service, usually less than 30 souls, most of whom are older than I, and I love them all dearly. BUT the service is getting smaller as more people are either homebound or recovering from surgery or, well, just not there. I have a vested interest in this service - I think it does fill a need in the community, and I think it could be a comfortable home for a lot of people who don't want to go to church on Sunday, or can't go to church on Sunday.
So, of course, I was thrilled when I got up to begin the service and saw a mom with a little baby come in. I welcomed her from the pulpit, which I don't normally do, but I wanted her to know that we were glad she and her little boy were there, and I didn't mind if said baby made some noise - I wanted her to feel comfortable.
Then, as I was making the announcements, another newcomer walked in. He was unkempt and unshaven, older, and I had seen him once before - when he cornered me after the service and asked for money.
Now, as I said, new people don't come to this service very often. When mom and baby came in there was a visible welcome on everyone's face, including mine - the women sitting across from her were just cooing at that baby. But when other man came in, and sat right in front of mom/baby, the whole congregation stiffened. Including me. Through my mind went the following thoughts:
Oh no. Not him. I wonder if he will ask for money again. I don't have any money and I don't know where to send him for help. I need to figure out where else he can go. Oh no. He just sat in front of mom/baby! I hope she doesn't feel uncomfortable. Why did he have to come this week? I hope he doesn't smell too bad and she feels like she has to leave.
The service went on, and Man didn't make any fuss. Baby did, and mom got up for a bit. Then I started preaching on the story of Moses, the little baby in the basket, who was three months old when his mother put him in that basket and into the Nile. It was easy for me to see this precious baby Mom was holding as baby Moses, and I told her she was a great object lesson for the week. But as I preached, I thought to myself
Man was a little baby one time too. A little three month old baby. I wonder if he had a mother who loved him like Moses' mother loved Moses, and like Mom clearly loves Baby.
Man got up and left just before the service ended. He walked down the hall toward the back door, but also toward my office, and I asked the usher to be sure he left the building, since my office is pretty far removed from anyone and I was going to be there for a bit after the service. I never got a chance to greet him. I never got the chance to see him, really, as more than a nuisance or a bother. Not even as a man.
Last week WisePastor, the senior pastor of BigChurch, said in his sermon, quoting someone, that the dawn has not come until we can look into the face of the stranger and see our brother or sister. God, help me to do that not just with Mom and Baby, but also with Man and others like him.