Friday, August 15, 2008

Questions Pondered, Do I Really Need the Answers?

Every now and then there are things that happen in life that I call, “God Moments,” these are times when it is obvious that God's hand is at work, times when there can be no other explanation. They are times where one has to stop and wonder, just how did that work out that way?” Sometimes these God Moments come with what a former co-worker of mine called, “Holy Spirit Bumps,” she thought that if the Spirit of God was involved, one got what we would normally call goose bumps.

Recently I happened to be with a small group of people joined together for worship. Prior to the beginning of the service an offering plate was placed on a table for those who wanted to make a midweek gift. During the service a man, who appeared to be one of the city's homeless came toward the chapel and sat down; he fidgeted for a while and then with a measure of stealth, lifted the better part of the offering and left. He may have made off with less than $20. While others saw it as a theft, I personally saw it as a God Moment. Do I believe that his taking the money from the plate was right? No, it was what it was, stealing. Do I still think that it was a God Moment? Yes.

Why do I think that it was a God Moment? My reasons are simple really; firstly, I would like to think that he used the money for food and maybe he even used the money to feed his family, it isn't my place to say that he didn't, I don't know him. Jesus fed five thousand with a lot less, “bread, than what this visitor took. Secondly, we have a sign over the door of the church that says that all are welcome, many churches all over the city and elsewhere have signs that imply the same thing in one way or another, one of my favorites is, “visitors expected.” I say imply, but really I think that some are more sincere about it than others. I think that while he was certainly welcome, he might have made himself a little too welcome.

If we follow the teachings of Jesus we know that we are to show hospitality and caring to those who aren't exactly pretty, or just those who don't smell good, the prisoner the.... And then the epistles remind us that we often entertain angels unaware, is that what we did? Who is to say really, other than God?

The final thought in this line may be the one that brings it all home for me. Was this man sent to the church for some reason? Did God tell him that a need could be met if he visited the church at an appointed time? I don't want to send the wrong message, I don't think that it's appropriate to march into a church, walk up to the offering plate and help yourself. I do believe that it is stealing, plain and simple. My question is, are there times when it is appropriate to get help some way when you are desperate, aren't there times when we have been at our wits end as to what to do and just did something, right or wrong? At what point is the church supposed to stop helping by giving and start teaching people to care for themselves? If we turn our backs because we are inundated by those begging are we missing some angels that we are supposed to be entertaining?

Now the kicker:
A totally personal aside. I've mentioned many times here that I have arranged dates in an effort to expand my circle of friends, I have also mentioned that of the last five, only one showed up. When I have spoken to others about this they are quick to say to me that it isn't about me, it's about the person who stood me up. I have a problem with this statement because I was involved. The words, “it's not about you,” are batted about, yes, it is about me, the situation included me, willing or not.

I think that there is a parallel here, maybe the fact that the money was taken had nothing really to do with the man who took it. Maybe it was meant to be an eye opening moment for the congregation. Maybe it wasn't as they say, “all about him.” A friend of mine once, in a very joking way, held up his fist and said, “this is me, then he circled his fist with the other and said, “and this is the universe, so see, the world does revolve around me.”

Could this event have been a God Moment? A time when God was using an event to make people more aware, a time when he was opening their eyes? If it was, what did we see? Did we see someone breaking a commandment by stealing? Did we see a hungry, desperate man who simply needed some money for food? Did we just watch an addict get what he needed to satisfy a craving? Or did we see the fact that giving to and sharing with others is a blessing? Was the moment about him, or was it about us? What was God using that moment for?

While I don't have the answers to these questions, I do have another part of the story that I haven't told yet, after the service was over and many stood and talked about what had happened and the offering plate was moved to a, “safer” place so that what was left in it stayed in it, when all was said and done and the offering plate was finally carried away there wasn't just the two or three dollars that the man left behind. There was probably something to the tune of $80 or better. I think this was a God Moment, I think that it was a feeding of maybe twelve, and remember with five thousand there were considerable left overs. I think that it was a God Moment when we consider what some of Jesus' last words were; he said to a thief, nailed to a cross next to him, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Thinking on that I just got Holy Spirit Bumps.


Anonymous UNK said...

You certainly give me a lot of God Moments. How I love to read your stories of life, the love you share with others and the love you share with us. We love you always. UNK

7:28 PM  

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