“I’m afraid I’d be too comfortable here,” a visitor once told me.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I can’t say I’ve heard that one before.” Many people love what we’re doing and celebrate us from afar, but few people actually commit to staying with us. Our stories are part of the reason why.
Two people showed up to service that had restraining orders against each other. Two men got ready to fight about a romantic issue. A lady yelled at me and walked out the door as I got ready to start service. Some people walked out the door with the church’s money. Many talk loudly while I’m preaching. The whole church prayed for someone who seemed to have made up their story. Pathological liars share their stories with other congregants. People request to sleep in our cars. Awkward people do too much hugging. Kids used our church phone to call 911. A congregant preached outside as children set off gunshots in a backyard across the street. Our road was taped off because of a drive by shooting. Someone made a drug drop out the window behind me while I led worship. A car slammed into the building across the street. I gave a man a ride who kept me on the hook for two hours, while I think he tried to sell stolen items to get money to buy drugs, eventually asking for my own money and, I think, created a plan to steal my car.
These are some of the stories that happen in and around our church. These are the kind of reasons some churches move out of their community. For us, they’re the reason we stay.
After Jesus called Levi the tax collector to follow him, Levi set up a party and invited Jesus and all of his tax collecting friends to come. This was jarring to the religious people of the time. After all, tax collectors were professional robbers. Stealing was how they made their living and they got very rich off it. This seemed like the last place a holy man like Jesus should have been found, but there he was, eating and ministering to them; for he did not come for the righteous, but for the sinners.
My visitor came back to me ten minutes later. “Jamin, I think there’s something you need to check out in the women’s bathroom.”
“Yeah? You still comfortable here?” I smiled. She embraced the awkwardness and has stayed with us since.
When we’re in bad company with people, we’re often in good company with Jesus.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Luke 5:27-39 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.