There I sat across the table from this friend of mine Sunday. We were enjoying a meal together and I really hadn't given much thought to his attire.
Church has become like that for me. I really don't pay a whole lot of attention to what people are wearing anymore; it just doesn't seem to matter. Where we worship, people come in jeans, t-shirts, dress pants, button-down shirts, sweaters, sleeveless shirts (though not now as it has gotten colder) - you get the drift.
Come as you are, we say.
We have lunch together often on Sunday, this guy, his family and mine. It has become part of our lives - though there was a time when we probably believed we were too good for this family. There was a time when we felt we were somehow superior, smarter, a notch or three above them.
God has changed that about us and we praise him for that.
On most Sundays, some 75-90 people stay after worship and enjoy a meal together. On this particular Sunday, though, two worlds collided as mother church and members from our congregation joined us at The Lighthouse for an annual church function known as the "Agape Feast."
In the Greek, agape means love. Every year for the past several years at our mother church, this agape feast, this feast of love, has taken place. People bring salads and deserts and a meal is shared. A communion service is also part of this annual event and it is a good thing.
But like I said, on this Sunday the agape feast took on a new dimension.
The Lighthouse is 10 months old and people who don't look like most of us, act like most of us and/or live like most of us from mother church have been coming. Christ is beginning to touch the lives of these people who for voluminous reasons haven't been attending a church and worshipping our forgiving, loving, merciful Jesus.
People like the folks we dined with again on Sunday.
So as the room filled with some 200 people, most of whom were dressed in their usual Sunday attire - dress pants, shirts, sweaters, and the like (not that this is bad) - tables began to fill up with friends and families taking up tables toward the back of the room as they joined us after worship.
But there in the front of the room there sits at one table two ex-cons and their family. The ex-cons had to get up early and leave to get back to the half-way house they are staying at on time. At another table is a gal whose life has been full of addictions and legal trouble. She had to get up to leave early, too. At yet another table is a woman and her grandson who has absolutely nothing at all (I wrote about her son in Count Your Blessings last week). And at yet another table sit our friends, who we regularly eat with.
These last two tables were just about empty - as all of the other folks took their seats with people they know and with people who look an awful lot like them. This grandma and her grandson were alone, until a caring couple slid in next to them. And our friends were alone, until we ventured over to sit with them and another couple who are friends of ours.
So as we are sitting there, sharing in this meal, these two worlds having collided, it hits me. The guy sitting across the table from me never went to church before The Lighthouse was started. He comes most every Sunday - wearing jeans (particularly wholly ones this week), a t-shirt and a cap. The cap this weeks reads "Brewski Time" with a mug of beer on it.
I am not sure if others noticed it or not, but I absolutely loved it! I almost spit the juice out of my mouth when I finally saw it. Here's this guy, perfectly comfortable in who he is and comfortable where he is, wearing a hat that saws "Brewski Time" at a church function!
He is a work in progress. I'm not sure he believes in Jesus yet or that he fully grasps "the story." Neither do I know if the ex-cons do. Nor do I know if the addict will stay clean and living the life that Jesus wants her to live.
Neither do I know that the people in the nice clothes and the well-groomed hair really love Jesus and are living for him. I don't know where their hearts are and if they even noticed what was going on around them Sunday - that people who don't look or act or live like them might be meeting Jesus, too.
Those things aren't my concern. What is my concern, is that we love because Christ first loved us...that we love because God sent his son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins...that we love "the least of these" because of the blessing we have in Christ Jesus.
It's not about our appearance - what we wear, how nice our hair and complexion look, what our bank account looks like - it's about our hearts and Christ in them.
Wish you could have seen it. "Brewski Time!"