September 7, 2015

Following Jesus: See, Listen, Go

The wheelchair broke. That was why she was stuck inside the access-a-ride minibus outside our church. Her only choices were to wait for someone to come and repair it, or to return to the assisted living home. It was a Monday evening at St. Lydia’s and we began the service as she, a member of the church, was stranded in a minibus. We could see her through the glass door.

As we were about to pass around the bread during communion, which we do at the start of the service, Emily Scott, the pastor, had an idea. As we sang the refrain of “Glory to you, forever and ever,” we crossed the street and filed into the bus, more than 20 of us.

We sang and we passed the bread from one hand to another in the cramped space. The driver looked slightly perturbed as we all piled in, but she offered us a “God bless you all” after communion as we were returning to the church.

It is in moments like this, when we leave the comfort of our space, that we best follow the example of Jesus. Just as when we, a mostly white congregation, march with those who know that black lives matter, and when we join those who fight for a living wage. Doing this well, we should not forget, requires a lot of listening so we actually know where people are and what they need (and don’t need) from us.

Being a follower of Jesus involves seeing and listening first, and then going to where people are, whether we meet them in their illness or their loneliness, in their anger or need, in the midst of their suffering, or in their broken wheelchair in a minibus.

This is especially important to remember in light of the refugee crisis in Syria and those suffering from the effects of climate change around the world. Most of us are shielded from so many of the most pressing issues of our day, far from much of the suffering. Reaching those we are called to serve often requires us to cross our thresholds and streets, borders, and lines of race and class.

The church is about inviting people in to our community, yes, and our churches should be welcoming places. But invitation is only a small part of what a church does. A church goes. A church leaves its pews, a church puts on its sandals, a church offers love and compassion and love to others. It takes the bread to those who need it.

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