Sunday, March 10, 2013

the Visitor

Remember to welcome strangers,
because some who have done this have welcomed
angels without knowing it.
Hebrews 13:2

      You never know when a memory might show up. Friday, in the middle of a lecture, I remembered something from my childhood. It was a Sunday night church service. I was bored. The pew was hard. My Mom wouldn't let me sleep. I was a kid who didn't want to be in church on Sunday night. I was missing the Wonderful World of Disney. 

     Then it happened. The sanctuary doors burst open with a bang, swinging into the doorframe like saloon doors on a Saturday night. And in staggered a homeless man. Disoriented and disheveled, he looked around the room as the preacher and congregation stared back. 'Finally,' I thought. 'Something interesting!'

     Time seemed to stop as the man made his way down the aisle. He plopped onto the front pew with a thud. The real sermon was about to begin. The preacher looked at his Bible and resumed. A few sentences later, the visitor shouted, "Amen, brother!" I think I heard someone gasp. Only the preacher was supposed to speak during the sermon- everybody knew that rule... everyone except Mr. Bartee, of course. He was our official 'AMENer, but tonight even Mr. Bartee was silent. The preacher glared. Again, he looked at his Bible and again, after a few sentences, the visitor shouted, "AMEN!" This time the preacher pointed his finger at the man and said, "I'm preaching this sermon. You listen!"

     It wasn't long until two men escorted the visitor from the church.

     I don't remember the sermon the preacher intended that night but I do remember the message I received. 

     And, I remember being sad to see the visitor leave.

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