What Do You See?
A Sow’s Ear or A Silk Purse?
A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
January 20, 1953
What would your first thought be if you pulled into your church parking lot on a Sunday morning only to see a man in faded and baggy clothes rummaging through the dumpster that houses garbage from the strip mall adjacent to the parking lot? Would you be shocked considering that your neighborhood is an upper middle-class one with $250,000.00 homes nearby? Would you become angry that your community was invaded from one of THOSE people? Would you shout your disapproval at the man? Would you call your local police department to send an officer to remove the miscreant? Or would you turn your head and pretend that you did not see what was right in front of your face? (All important questions worth thinking about!)
Finally, choosing not to make a scene, you walk quickly, in the opposite direction of the man and through the church doors into the bright, clean and beautifully appointed sanctuary. You shake hands and greet your fellow parishioners as you make your way to your seat. The mumbling you hear from your friends who shield their mouths with their hands, echoes the thoughts that circulate through your own head about the stranger outside. You sit, close your eyes to pray when suddenly, the sanctuary is as quiet as a tomb. You open your eyes to find that same stranger slowly making his way down the aisle toward the altar. Now what do you do?
A Sunday Stranger
The parking lot filled rapidly on Sunday morning as members of the large church congregation filed into church. As usually happens in a church that size, each member had developed a certain comfort zone — a block of space within those four church walls that became theirs after the second or third sitting. It was as much a part of their church experience as the recliner was to the television at home.
One morning a stranger stood at the edge of the parking lot near a dumpster. As families parked cars and piled out, they noticed him rummaging through the trash. “Oh no! I don’t believe it,” whispered a lady to her husband. “That’s all we need — a bunch of homeless people milling around here.”
One worried little girl tugged on her dad’s sleeve. “But Daddy…”. Daddy was busy sizing up the bearded stranger, whose baggy, outdated trousers and faded flannel shirt had dusted too many park benches.
“Don’t stare at him, honey,” he whispered, and hurried her inside. Soft music filled the high-ceilinged sanctuary as churchgoers settled into their usual spots. The choir sang an opening chorus, “In His presence there is comfort… in His presence there is peace…”.
Sunlight suddenly flooded the center aisle. The double doors swung open and the homeless man, sloppy and stooped, headed toward the front.
“Oh no, it’s him!” somebody muttered. “What does he think he’s doing, anyway?” snapped an incredulous usher.
The stranger set his bagful of dumpster treasures on the very first pew, which had been upholstered in an expensive soft teal fabric just three months ago. The music stopped. And before anyone had a chance to react, he ambled up the stairs and stood behind the fine, hand-crafted oak podium, where he faced a wide-eyed congregation.
The disheveled stranger spoke haltingly at first, in a low, clear voice. Unbuttoning and removing his top layer of clothing, he described Jesus, and the love He has for all people. “Jesus possesses a sensitivity and love that far surpasses what any of us deserves.” Stepping out of the baggy old trousers, the stranger went on to describe a forgiveness that is available to each and every one of us… without strings attached. Unconditionally He loves us. Unconditionally He gave his very life for us. Unconditionally and forever, we can have the peace and assurance that no matter who we are, where we’ve come from, or how badly we may have mistreated others or ourselves, there is hope. In Jesus, there is always hope. “You see, my friends, it is never too late to change,” the man continued. “He is the Author of change, and the Provider of forgiveness. He came to bring new meaning to ‘life’.” Men and women squirmed as reality hit them like an electrical current. The stranger tugged at his knotted gray beard, and removed it. “I’m here to tell you that we are loved with a Love far beyond human understanding, a Love that enables us to accept and love others in return.” Then tenderly he added, “Let’s pray together.”
story found in the 10/28/12 copy of the firstname.lastname@example.org
That wise pastor, under the guise of a homeless “nobody”, did not preach a sermon that day, but every person left with plenty to think about. Who was the poor one in the story? You see, despite having all of the resources they could ever want, it was always the members of this congregation who were poor. No, they were not poor monetarily but that is not the only kind poor in the world. Because what they were was poor in spirit! They displayed all manner of the “deadly sins” by not just their actions but by their inactions, as well, including the sins of wrath, pride, envy, greed, sloth and gluttony. And while God sent His Son to earth for many reasons including healing physical poverty, that was not the primary reason. As He traveled and healed and shared his Father’s message with people everywhere, He taught lessons intended to heal mankind of the spiritual poverty that they suffered from. And I don’t know about you, but I guess man must be a VERY slow learner, because spiritual poverty is just as pervasive in the world today, some 2000 years later!
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Luke 4:38-44 NIV
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