Friday, January 30, 2009

The Real Challenge

Session was meeting; we were one hour into our time, greasing the machinery of the church. At the door-- visible because the Session room is glass-walled, as is the South entrance-- stood two young black men, not exactly dressed for church.
Because we had had a big shindig that day, the door was unlocked and many people were coming and going. One of them came to the door, and let the two young men in. Watching this unfold behind the elders' backs, I looked at the circle of elders, and I said to them, "someone needs...." Before I could get the call to serve out of my mouth, one elder was at the door, going to them. She began to talk to them, and one of the young men began to cry. She took them to the library; we could hear her telling them, "we need to pray for you." I said, "Jesus sent us out two by two..." and another elder jumped up and followed her to the library. Our parish associate went with him.
Our meeting continued, wheels were greased; but I was watching as person after person went by loading their cars, hearing the cries, dropping everything, and heading to the library. Within a few minutes, piles of bags had stacked up at the entrance door, and I could just see through the cracked open door of the library young and old, new and veteran Christians, black and white, on their knees with their hands on the backs of the two young black men.
At the end of the meeting, an hour later, they were still there; I went in and prayed with them, and heard their story. Abandoned by their parents, raised by grandparents who had recently died, fathers of children they did not really know and could not really help to raise-- they were little boys in men's costumes, trying to act like they knew what they were doing, when they were totally lost.
It had finally gotten bad enough that they simply started walking, looking for the doors of a church that would be open at 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Our building is on a street of churches, but we are a ways north of most of them. They had started at the southern end of the street-- we were the only door that was open.
This is a parable for our time: I have never felt more joy as a pastor than I felt that day, watching Jesus Christ use this community to hold on to those two young men, and help them to get their bearings in a world that did not seem to care if they failed or succeeded.
While we are inside arguing, a generation of young men is dying all around us. While we play at spiritual things, a generation is growing up ignorant of them. This is the real challenge of this time. It is time to as they say, "man up:"
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

1 comment:

  1. But....your door was open, and so were the hearts of your parishioners.

    One of my favorite "old" Dragnet shows from the early 1950s involves a theft from a church on the day before Christmas eve. As Sergeant Friday is taking a statement from the pastor, he learns the the door was left unlocked.

    "You leave the door unlocked all night, Father?"

    "Yes, Sergeant, we do."

    "So any old thief can just walk in?"

    "Especially the thieves, Sergeant, especially the thieves."

    Many of our churches have fallen away from that perspective. Sounds as if yours is still in the "business" of saving souls and healing hearts. Well done, thou good and faithful servants.