“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:37-40
This morning’s post moves around three ideas. The church, the mission, and our life together. That’s what a great Sunday will do!
THE CHURCH: Like many larger congregations, the Wake Forest Presbyterian campus includes a multi-purpose building voluminous enough to seat hundreds of people, cater “gala” events, host concerts, play indoor games, and more. Some congregations call them “the gym,” some use the term “fellowship hall,” and then “family life building” is a popular moniker.
We call ours the Christian Life Center, and yesterday – witnessing the building pulsate with every kind of life – I realized it couldn’t have a better name.
- During the morning the CLC hosted a vibrant worship service, several Bible-study classes, and week-two of a year-long confirmation class attended by 31 8th-grade teens preparing to make a deeper commitment to follow Jesus.
- In the afternoon the CLC was full with kids-club activities, work for the “backpack-buddies” mission, prep for welcoming four homeless families via the Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network, and the work of over 30 people involved in preparing and serving a hot meal to over 100 homeless individuals on the street. Meanwhile, in the same room where confirmation kids gathered in the morning, Rebekah spent two hours in leadership training for new elders and deacons.
- In the evening the building was overflowing again, this time with our extremely active youth program. The kitchen was busy all day, and the entire CLC – every nook and cranny of space – overflowed with Christians practicing and demonstrating life.
HOMELESS: I got to go into Raleigh to serve supper. My role – in the meticulously calibrated, fine-tuned, well-oiled mission machine Sandie Buda crafts – is that of welcoming our guests, sharing a devotional thought, offering a blessing, and then simply visiting with people at the tables.
Again, like the day I rode the Greyhound bus back from Florida, all I did was listen and pray. People, real people going through difficult circumstances, people gracious enough to share a small part of their story with a stranger.
Generous with their stories, and expecting nothing in return. Nothing, that is, other than to be understood, to be taken notice of, and to be taken seriously. Of course, the problem with taking these folk seriously is that such knowledge threatens to change us… and maybe that’s not exactly what we had bargained for when we drove down into the small park that sits between the North Carolina Legislature and the governor’s mansion.
LIFE TOGETHER: And then, in a soul-piercing juxtaposition of events, Rebekah and I enjoyed a meal with the WFPC “koinonia” dinner group we’ve been bonding with over the summer months. There is just plain “eating together,” there’s a “dinner party,” and then there’s what can only be described as, “A SUMPTUOUS, FESTIVE FEAST!!!!”
Granted, this particular group turned out to be four couples who all share an uncommon appreciation for the “foodie” end of the eating continuum. All four of our amazing dinners together had been hosted by serious cooks.
Barbara, however, went the extra mile (or three). She pulled out her cookbooks from the years she lived in Taiwan, she dedicated the entire weekend to food preparation, then she gifted us with an authentic eight-course Chinese gourmet extravaganza. Spring Rolls; Lamb with Scallions; Minced Pigeon; SzeChun Eggplant; Double Cooked Pork; Peiking Duck; Fried Noodles; Three Treasure Soup; Mandarin Oranges. Every course was served with perfect rice, and other carefully prepared complements, even down to a real Chinese beer.
After the blessing, Barbara pointed out that – in Taiwan – a clean table-cloth at the end of a meal is considered an insult to the host. She must have planted some Chinese voodoo in my head, because I proceeded (in addition to the usual jogs and spills) to upend an entire dish of soy/sesame sauce, break a (thankfully empty) glass, and knock an open bottle of wine off the credenza!
Once again – after four wonderful dinners together as a group – the conversation, the fellowship, the laughter, the fun of being together as brothers and sisters, came together in a confluence of grace and generosity that simply blew me away.
MEANING: Toward the end of the evening Rebekah asked everyone at the table to come up with three words that describe what Wake Forest Presbyterian Church means to them. There were some great answers. But now I’m thinking about mine again – especially in the context of the touchstone for Christian life that WFPC is, and the light our part of the Body of Christ is to this community – and I have to say grace, generosity, and encouragement.
Grace; Generosity; Encouragement. My words for this new week – DEREK