16 August 2015

Guests At The Banquet

This morning as I sat in the church foyer, people-watching, I noticed how... I don't know, inclusive? our particular church is.

You often hear people day they don't feel 'good enough' for church. We have songs like Casting Crowns' If We Are The Body and Does Anybody Hear Her?, Connie Scott's Come On Leah, L.S. Underground's Shaded Pain, Rob Frazier's Come On Elaine, all of which paint pictures of people who needed Jesus but were run out by the church. And this is true. This is all true. I've seen it happen. I was almost one of them. There are still far too many people who demand you meet their standard before they let you in their church. But that's not the point of this post.

I was looking around the foyer from my vantage point on the edge of it. I saw the greeters -- a black woman and a white woman -- talking and laughing together in the moments when there weren't people to greet. I saw Europeans, blacks, Natives, and Filipinos. I watched my (white) brother talk to his Native friend and my (European) father catch up with a young half-Filipino. I saw young kids (elementary age) talking to white-haired ladies and time-weathered men as if they were good friends -- and indeed they were.

I saw many people with walkers and canes, one in a cast, and several in wheelchairs. I saw a handful of amputees. I saw one half-blind woman get a coffee for a man in a wheelchair. I saw several people with tics.

The pastor was right in the thick of it. He sat at a table drinking coffee and talking with an autistic man and several old ladies. He waved and smiled at the man in a wheelchair, came and spoke with me (knowing I've been going through a lot), greeted everyone he passed by name with twinkling eyes and a warm smile.

All this is a casual, fairly superficial observation. This is what a newcomer would have seen if they had entered this church for the first time this morning. This doesn't even include the stories that I know lie behind these faces: the adopted child, the cancer survivor, the person with anxiety issues, the ladies whose husbands have left them, the widows and widowers, the foster children, the people with depression.

All these people with different stories and experiences and backgrounds, all in the same building, in the same network pool of friends and family. Many are 'broken' in the world's eyes -- witness the wheelchairs and walkers. Some are 'outcasts' -- the depressed, the divorcées. But here in this building, while they may not all be close friends with everybody else, there is a sense of camaraderie -- we're all in this together. Nobody looks down on the handicapped, the abandoned, the ones with mental issues, the ones with a different skin colour. Are we perfect? Nope. And that's part of what makes this a safe haven for us.

It all reminded me of a song.
The poor are coming
The lame are running
With their sleazy clothes and orthopaedic shoes
There's a harelip salesman shouting out the news
"Come to the banquet at the world's end!"
(Banquet At The World's End, Daniel Amos, 1993)

And an even older song:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children in the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world...

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