Resurrection Sunday was a couple weeks ago, and Christian congregations rolled out the red carpet to welcome all who would come. The “church” was on its best behavior: egg hunts, special music, sunrise services, breakfast, foot washing, and so much more as local churches gathered (mine included), all in the name of Jesus. On that holiest of Sundays I was tense.
I can now articulate the source of that tension.
I was frustrated with the fakeness demonstrated by the “church.” Yes, I, a seminarian, college and young adult pastor, called the actions of the church fake. Why?
Because we, the churched minority, rolled out the red carpet – the same red carpet we put away for this week – and we did not always mean it. On the day when we had the least amount of time to tend to the needs of others, we boldly said come join us. Our families were visiting, our special dinner needed to be prepared, we were in a hurry, or we had brunch reservations, but we still asked people join us. I spent most of Resurrection Sunday thinking about this week. What would we do this week? What face would the stranger see this week? No fancy banners, no breakfast, no foot washing, nope – nothing special going on here…this week.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31 (NRSV)
In the middle of my tension with the church, God inquired of my love for my neighbor.
I had the opportunity to see or ignore a stranger, a first-time visitor. I saw her tears as she bolted to the restroom at the end of worship. I saw her fighting back more tears as she sat in the lobby. Honestly, I was even tempted to ignore her: I was tired and frankly not in the mood to deal with someone else’s brokenness.
But truth, my love for God and my love for myself would not let me ignore my love for my neighbor. I asked one simple question: “would you like me to pray with you?” She said yes. I found a quiet space and we stood silently; I let her cry, and we prayed. I hope she knows that I was sincerely happy that she and her daughter chose to worship with us, and that I sincerely hoped they would join us again.
Here is the deal: the church should not be in the business of rolling out the red carpet if we do not have time to see people and meet them in their brokenness.
If I am not going to show you love, I should not invite you into my home, let alone the house of God.
Be intentional about seeing people; be intentional about meeting people in their brokenness…