If our faith has taught us anything, it must be that “how things SEEM” may not be “how things ARE.” Pain doesn’t get the last word, LOVE does. Grief doesn’t get the last word, HOPE does. Death doesn’t get the last word, RESURRECTION does. God is great at reversals! And aren’t we glad.
The great preacher, Fred Craddock, told a story I hope I’ll never forget. He had flown to Winnipeg, Canada, to deliver a series of lectures. His host had left him with the impression that, although it WAS the fall, it was early enough in the season NOT to need a heavy coat; so he didn’t bring one. And based on his telling of the story, I can imagine him saying to himself, “I hope my host was right,” as a light snow began to fall after his lecture that first evening. Sadly, his host was not!
His phone rang early the next morning and his host was on the line with the news that a freak winter storm had dumped FEET of snow across the city … shutting down the airport, thwarting public transit, and closing the roads. His host could not even get to him … either to take him to eat OR to bring him food. He was stuck.
His host did say there was a greasy spoon not far away that might be open for local foot traffic. So Dr. Craddock bundled up and set out in search of sustenance, but he trek was worse than he’d expected. When he arrived, the place was more crowded than he’d imagined. But while he was there, something happened.
Once he finally got a seat, he asked for a menu. The grumpy waiter (who may in fact have been the proprietor) said: “Why do you need a menu?” “We GOT soup!” Dr. Craddock asked: “What kind of soup?” And the answer came: “SOUP. We got soup? You want some soup?” And, graciously as ever, Dr. Craddock allowed as how that was just what he was going to order … some soup.
The soup came. And it was awful. Grey and nasty. Altogether horrible. But HOT … so he warmed his hands and sat there, he admitted, feeling sorry for himself. Then the door opened, and a rush of cold wind assaulted everyone inside. It was a woman. Alone. And cold.
The guy in the greasy apron asked her what she wanted. She said WATER. So he brought it. Then he flipped over his little pad and asked her what she was ordering (as if it could possibly be anything other than soup). She said that all she wanted was the water. He said she had to order something or leave. She said all she wanted was the water and a minute to get warm. He asked: “What do you think this is, a Church?” And he insisted: “Either you’re a paying customer or you’re gone.”
As he got louder, she rose to leave. And then that “something” that I said happened happened. As if on cue, practically in unison, every patron in the place (every PAYING patron in the place) rose to leave. And the proprietor, realizing – if not that he was wrong, at least that he was defeated – invited her … to stay
Dr. Craddock says that when he returned to his soup and gave it another try, he discovered something: it had the unmistakable taste of broken bread and poured out wine.
In the presence of JUSTICE, Christ is present. In the presence of COMPASSION, Christ is present. In the presence of LOVE and KINDNESS and GRACE, Christ is present.
On Sunday afternoon, as Andy and I said goodbye to our friend Josh, the punch and cookies (and other delights) that were available after the service had the unmistakable taste of broken bread and poured out wine. When you prepare a meal for a family like ours, it often has the unmistakable taste of broken bread and poured out wine. In our love, Christ is present. In our acts of kindness, Christ is present. And when we say goodbye, Christ is present!
Dan has been the Pastor of Salem UMC since June, 2017. He loves preaching, the Atlanta Braves, beach vacations, and precious time with his wife Brenda and their grown sons. Read More . . .