Typically in both worships (online & on-site), the message is the same. Yesterday was different.
It was a “No Huddles Day” – when the message is shorter, and for the in-person site, the auditorium doesn’t have all the “frills,” and we spend the morning doing something to impact others in our community.
We don’t apologize for being a No Huddles church, but we recognize that it often isn’t exactly what folks are looking for. When you come to worship, you want to encounter Jesus . . . you want a transformational message that is going to give you what you need to go through the week. Therefore, the few minutes I do speak, I know they matter a lot.
The scripture had been chosen for weeks . . . and honestly, it’s one (of few) that I actually know by memory. “I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.” from Matt. 25
I’d opened with a kayaking story that happened while we were in Augusta the previous Sunday for the triathlon. The kindest man literally pulled me completely onto dry land so that I wouldn’t struggle to get out of the kayak that I clearly was ill-fitted to be using. (Think life-jacket sized for Tiny Tim, inappropriate shoes, still with my cell phone, etc. I was very unprepared to volunteer to kayak, but it was important that we try to give back to the folks who had helped us so generously. So, when they made an emergency call for kayaking volunteers, we both knew I should do it! Never mind the many details that should have been tended to.)
Telling the story was fine, and it fits with making the call for all of us to be like the “Kayak Man” – – – willing to step in, even with people we don’t know, and trying to make a difference.
But as I stood in front of the in-person worship group, the words, “I was homeless . . .” kept resonating . . .
During the last stage of the triathlon, I needed to run to the car to grab needed things for the end of the race.
We’d parked one block over from race street, and as I rounded the corner to go to the truck, I noticed a gentleman in tattered clothes sitting up against a light post, a few grocery bags with clothes, etc., surrounding him. He honestly seemed sort of “out of it,” so whereas I noticed him, I did not think about it a ton, nor did I stop to engage.
After I rounded the corner, I encountered a group of people, and unfortunately, one of them had a gun that he felt strongly about showing me – the handle, the trigger, etc. I was alone, scared, and not quickly processing the “next best thing to do.” I kept walking to the car because I didn’t want to appear scared or give anyone reason to turn around and come after me. Finally, I made it to the car, had a slight meltdown, checked Tom’s dot on the Ironman app, and realized he was minutes from crossing the finish line. I was determined not to let that unfortunate incident ruin the celebratory moments of that day. Our kids were excited to be there, he had worked so hard to get to that place, and I could process my experience later. Putting it off for a few minutes would not cause anything to change.
I decided I’d walk back on the populated street. But as I walked, I was having difficulty keeping my emotions at bay. I’ve never had someone “pull a gun” on me, and I found myself battling some inner fears.
I was trying to gather myself so that none of the family would know I was upset when I got back to the finish line, so I was trying to do some deep breathing, which I guess included closing my eyes. I didn’t notice this “grate” sticking up off the sidewalk. I tripped on it and went flying. It was like a “superhero” moment – flying through the air. My phone landed about 30 yards in front of me, my backpack flew off, and I landed flat on my knees. You could hear the folks around gasp, it was that “bad” . . . . and so now on top of trying to process my fear, I was embarrassed beyond words.
Both knees were bleeding, one significantly.
People turned around to see me, then turned back around. Folks kept walking by as I pulled myself up and grabbed my phone and bag, and that’s when the tears came. And at that moment, I just felt completely defeated. I didn’t care if I made it to the finish line. I felt embarrassed, like SUCH a klutz, and was just so ashamed.
I moved over to the wall and put my head in my hands, and that’s when I noticed the feet. There were feet standing right in my line of vision. I looked up, and there were the eyes of the homeless man that I’d seen previously when I was walking down the street.
“Can I help you? Are you ok?”
I told him I was fine.
“I saw you fall. I’m here to help you if you aren’t ok.”
I explained that I just needed a minute to regather myself. He smiled and walked away.
Yesterday as I prepared to share the second message of the day, “I was homeless, and you gave me a room . . . you cared for me” . . . those words changed me.
That man that day was Jesus to me. Since last Sunday, I’ve probably analyzed the young person with the gun hundreds of times, but I realized I’d NOT given that kind gentleman the brain attention and prayer that he deserves.
When there were hundreds of folks standing, walking, and sitting around me, everyone was in their own world, except for the one gentleman who had little to nothing by worldly standards. Yet, he is the one who came and offered everything.
“Do you need anything?”
We are created to be people of Love.
People who go to others, wherever they are (My Sister’s House, Third Creek Elementary and Middle, College Students, Nebbi and Kigumba, Uganda).
Sunday was a “No Huddles Day,” and I’m inviting you today to participate.
CLICK HERE TO DO SO, and you will see all the options!
Last week I wrestled with the memory of the guy with the gun. I had nightmares, wept on and off for no reason, and was on “high alert” to folks not being kind to me.
Yesterday, however, it was pretty clear that God used that moment before the message,
“I was homeless . . .”
and in that message, I was able to become free!
Regardless of what we face, if we look, we’ll find God.
We will see the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t really out of reach. It’s here and now. So even when there’s a guy with a gun, there’s also a way to and for peace.
We will find that peace when we, like the homeless gentleman, look around and see others who might have a need. Then, when we aim to fill that need, not only will we find peace, we will BE peace!
Grace and Peace,