I overheard a conversation recently on a Sunday morning. I was waiting to speak to a first-time guest. One of our members was there ahead of me. After a few welcoming comments and questions, our member held out her hand and said with feeling, “I’m so glad you came.”
I can’t read minds but I can tell a look. The smile on that young woman’s face told me that she recognized authentic friendliness. We have many challenges as a church, but I am always grateful to see people genuinely care.
Caring reaches far beyond the Sunday morning service. We know that. In a hospital room with a sick friend, in a neighboring home with a lonely senior, in a harried office with a struggling colleague, in a classroom with a feeling-left-out youth, at the register with an overwhelmed sales person, in a restaurant with a worn-out server … the moments are plentiful, if we choose to seize them.
Authentic faith involves investment. The good guy in Jesus’ story about the man on the Jericho road was an unexpected hero. Samaritans were despised and dismissed. The one who stopped to help a severely injured traveler has inspired the building of hospitals, schools, and helping organizations around the world.
The ministry of Jesus wasn’t a display of power; it was a demonstration of compassion. The Lord of lords and the King of kings stooped to wash the dirty feet of His disciples. Then He told them to apply the lesson.
Whose feet have we washed lately? Whose battered life has received empathetic concern and action from us recently? Where has our faith showed up? When is the last time we extended our hands and hearts to those who might really need authentic compassion?
I learned the hard lesson years ago. Church isn’t for me or any other already-convinced person. Church is for the people who are disconnected, disenfranchised, discarded, distracted, and defeated. The “least of these” might be right next to us – people who need hope and help.
The Bible tells us that Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes. One writer noted that swaddling clothes were a symbol, not of poverty as some have tried to characterize her action but of maternal care, affection, and tenderness. He wrote: “What are you wrapping people you meet in? Are you swaddling them in compassion, tenderness, generosity, and devotion?”
Perhaps you might hear someone tell you: “I’m so glad you came.”