This afternoon my pastoral colleague Julie and I were standing on Cabot Street by the main entrance to the church. We were discussing an idea for some ‘garden art’ that would relay to the wider community that the church we serve is an inviting and welcoming place.
As we talked a man whom I will call Burt interrupted our conversation. With rapid bursts of speech he told us that he was arrested the previous night for public intoxication, that his girlfriend had thrown his possessions into an undisclosed dumpster and that he hadn’t eaten in several days. We smelled the beer on his breath and the sweat in his clothing. He told us he needed food and a place to stay. What to do?
It was agreed that Burt and I would sit down and have a conversation. As a result we prayed together and then I walked with him to a local restaurant for lunch and provided a way to get to a nearby town where he had family. With Burt it was hard to determine fact from fiction. What was clear was that here was a fellow wounded soul in need of a good meal and a little hope.
As Julie and I talked with Burt on the sidewalk of Cabot Street we both sensed that Burt’s interruption carried an invitation. An invitation for us as pastors to move from talking about welcoming, to putting that welcome into practice. We recognized that the church of Jesus Christ was not confined to what happened within the walls but more powerfully what was happening outside the walls.
Today, Burt with beer on his breath and sweat on his clothes reminded us that we were standing on Holy Ground. More than that we were standing in the very presence of Jesus. How so? Jesus says, ‘whatever kindness you do unto the most vulnerable of my children you do so unto me’.
We want to thank Burt for reminding us of this truth. The least we could do is buy him a sandwich and provide a way home.