Sunday, March 28, 2010

A sock hat + a duffle bag (does not) = DUCK!

It's easy to over use the phrase "We live in strange times." But the truth is ... we live in strange times.

During our morning worship service this morning things were going quite well. The "felt" presence of God was in the building. The worship (aka: singing) was vibrant and moving. The crowd was sizable. The pre-message video actually received a round of applause. And the pastor, well he was just "off the hook." The guy was on fire! He was bringing fresh bread!

Okay, he was me. And I'm probably over stating the pastor part just a little bit.

But about mid-sermon the door of the worship center opened and a man walked in. He was dressed strangely A bit like a homeless person, wearing some odd sort of a sock hat and carrying a duffel bag of sorts. I never got a good look at it. He walked to about the fifth pew from the rear and made himself at home on the aisle of the far right side of the church.

You know, when you are speaking the Word of God you really should pay close attention to what you are saying. I mean, you should be listening hard to hear the Voice of The Holy Spirit. You should be sticking to your notes unless prompted by God to do otherwise. You should NOT be looking at the oddities of those in the congregation.

But a duffle bag? Or a back pack?

I admit that it got my attention. It's only been slightly over a year since a friend of mine was murdered in the pulpit as he spoke on a Sunday morning by a man who came in late. It is, admittedly, hard to forget about that. Since that event we have established a "Security Team" that operates invisibly. We don't talk about them around church at all. But there are ways I can cause them to swing into action without anybody knowing that I have done so. It was obvious that the team was already paying attention. That told me that my job was to NOT pay attention to the man. My job was to go about the task of speaking God's Word.

He seemed to listen closely to everything I said. He fidgeted a little bit but so do the deacons. That's not exactly a sign of anything. It took me all of sixty seconds to realize that this was God's place and God's deal. And at that point I intentionally stopped looking at him and focused on "hearing" and "speaking." And yes, for those who have already asked, I did close my eyes when I led in prayer before the end of the service.

You know what was amazing? Following the message we began singing. This unknown man raised his hands toward the heavens, closed his eyes, and sang full throttle. He was obviously lost in the moment. Worshipping God. Seeking His presence. I felt really stupid.

It's a shame when you have a stranger visit your church, even a "strange stranger," and you don't know whether to turn them in or to welcome them with open arms. I think the truth is that we have a directive from our Father to forget the former and do the latter. After you've done all you can do it is imperative that you lean on your Heavenly Father for protection and trust those you've put in charge of security to do their jobs. Yes, we have an obligation to make our church as safe as we can. But when a person of question enters and one of your first thoughts is "I'm glad my wife isn't here this morning because I don't want her to see what might happen" ... something is just wrong.

I was sitting with eight guys in my small group this evening and every one of us admitted to feeling the same feelings and thinking the same thoughts when we first saw our friend. There were even tears shed because we have become to quick to judge and jump to conclusions. It's a tough spot we've been put in in our churches. And we just can't allow ourselves to forget our church motto ... "Love God. Love People. Pretty Simple."

If we forget that ... we've given the enemy too much ground and we've already lost a big part of the battle. We live in a dangerous world and we are, to an extent, targets. Easy targets. We don't anticipate, want, or even expect violence. And we'll do all we can to prevent it and act quickly if it should occur. But the mission goes on. And we learned today to do our best and lean into Jesus for the rest.

Because, yes, we live in strange times.


Anonymous said...

This makes me want to give you a hug. Or maybe it just makes me need a hug. So complicated.


johnsonfamilyof6 said...

I remember hearing about a couple youth pastors who dressed as homeless men outside a convention hall once. Perhaps he was a youth pastor in disguise. Or not. Did you meet this stranger?

Anonymous said...

A sock+duffle bag does not equal duck.

I thought your were going to talk about trying to fashion something to look like it was not. I tried to use a brick as a hammer once and broke the brick and did not hammer the nail well.

Then I realized you were pointing out that sometimes our heart and minds fashion some bad ideas from the information we see. Like the brick it is not as effective and often breaks.

I was happy to find although my mind jumped at the title of your blog it still came to a similar point.

God must be here!

jimmah said...

is a bomb diffusing robot in your budget?