A guy walks into a church…
Nope, this isn’t the set-up for a joke; there’s no priest, rabbi or monk. It’s the beginning of a story that often has a sad or at least a melancholy middle and end. A guy walks into a church, and he desperately needs something; maybe it’s for his wife, his kids, his dog… Sometimes it’s for himself, but usually it’s for someone for whom he has pledged to provide care.
Oftentimes, this guy walks into the Pantry, which is an incredible blessing, because THERE, we can give him what he needs. We can nourish the soul, as well as the body, and do it so beautifully, so GRACE-fully, that he barely skips a beat. He drives up, is welcomed into a comfortable place where he fills out a “grocery list” for the items he needs, and PRESTO! Like magic, one or two of dozens of volunteers are there to pray with him, comfort him, help with the forms, AND give him groceries! Not only are groceries provided, they are actually loaded into the car! I know! It seems too good to be true, but it IS true. This is the story that ends happily, and I wish they all ended like that.
Sadly, not all stories end that way.
A guy walks into a church. Sometimes he just shows up at the front door. He doesn’t know exactly what he wants, he just knows he needs something. This guy may be ill, he may be broke, or he may just be broken. He probably doesn’t have access to things that the average American considers to be “everyday items…” He probably has never had the luxury of putting on a golf shirt and khakis in the morning, to go in to a job that he complains endlessly about to anyone who will listen. He probably doesn’t even own a golf shirt and khakis, and he likely doesn’t have a job.
Maybe this guy has a car or a truck; maybe it’s simply his vehicle, maybe it’s his home. It’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and he doesn’t have the luxury of trading it in for a better one. It’s difficult to buy gas, nearly impossible to pay for repairs, and insurance premiums are completely out of the question. Maybe he has heard through one of numerous “grapevines” that Fishers UMC sometimes has $25 gas cards, and he’s hoping he’s fortunate enough to come at a time when we still have a few. Sometimes we do.
Once in a very great while, a guy walks into a church with his significant other; they’re both dirty from life on the road, and they’re driving a beat-up van, that he admits someone gave to them. All they really want is a bag of dog food for their dog – and maybe a tank of gas if that’s possible. If the gas isn’t possible, that’s ok… they’ll make it. They tell me they have faith; they’ve done it before. But the pit bull in the back seat that they rescued from “fighters” needs some dog chow. A lot of these people will actually feed their dog before they allow themselves to eat. On this one incredible occasion, both the dog chow AND the gas card were available, and I’ve never seen a happier and more appreciative couple.
Twenty-five bucks and a bag of dog chow. That almost sounds like the title to a bad country song. But it was literally the theme of that day.
The thought of walking into a restaurant and sending back a meal because it’s too well done, or too salty, or not what he wanted, would never occur to this guy. He would literally eat the scraps off of others’ plates without complaining. “Pride” is not a word in his vocabulary. On these occasions – when we are confronted with those who have nothing, and are asking for something – what do we do? When these people show up, literally on our doorstep, what is the appropriate response? What do we, as Christians, do to help?
It’s really quite simple: Deuteronomy 15:10 tells us, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” I think this one sentence tells us why it feels so good to give, and why we feel so richly rewarded. Matthew 10:8 says, “…Freely you have received; freely give.”
I believe this sums it up nicely. In the final analysis, the times we remember will be the times that we did as God calls each and every one of us to do.
A guy walks into a church…
What would you do?