Friday, August 1, 2014

Place Three

A while back, I began a post called "A Tale of Three Places."  I failed to write the final part of that until a friend reminded me.  So, here we go!

Place Three 
You pull into a parking lot.  It is more crowded than you thought it would be.  Maybe you should just go home and try another time.  After all, you feel a little tired today anyway.  But, Joe at work has been inviting you for months and you keep blowing him off.  You have to at least go once to get him off your back.  You find an empty spot in between two minivans.  You find those things annoying, but you have to take the spot since you are late as it is. 

You make your way through the front entrance, unsure of where to go or where to find Joe.  You walk in and are immediately welcomed by a smiling man named Stan.  He mentions that he doesn't remember seeing you before and asks if he can help direct you in any way.  He doesn't even seem to notice that you aren't exactly in your Sunday best.  You mention that you are looking for Joe and he says, "Oh, yes - Joe just walked in - let me take you to where he is."

As you walk with Stan, you notice it’s not the nicest place you’ve ever stepped foot in.  It could definitely use a pain job.  The carpet seems stained and dated.  The seats don’t look overly comfortable either.  But you realize that none of that seems to bother anyone.  In fact, everyone just seems too excited to see each other to notice those things.

Just ahead, you see Joe waving with a wide smile on his face.  He makes his way through the crowd and greets you.  He guides you over to where he is sitting and introduces you to his friends – Sam and Eric.  They both extend warm greetings to you. In fact, you have been greeted by several people now since walking in.

As you sit down, Joe starts telling Sam and Eric more about you.  The more they hear, the more they seem genuinely interested and appear to hang on every word.  You start wishing Joe would shut up, but it feels good to have strangers take such a genuine interest in you.  They seem heart-broken and sympathetic that you are separated from your spouse.  They ask if there is anything they can do for you.  You quickly realize that you are quickly becoming a part of the “group.”  It feels good.

As you prepare to leave, everyone expresses how good it was to meet you. Not in the used car salesman way - but like they truly seem happy to get to know you.  You find yourself looking for a reason you won’t be back next time, but something in you wants to come back - like you have a new group of friends who genuinely care about you. 

You get in your car and before you pull out of the parking lot, you look back at the building and say to yourself, “FirstCommunity Church – I think I might go back there!”

What if church was truly a warm community.  Yes, the church should preach the truth of God's Word, but does that mean we also have to kick people while they are down?  Consider Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.  He loved her and stood (actually knelt) in her defense.  After overwhelming he with grace and the assurance that He does not condemn her, He calls her to go and sin no more.  

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