Right out of college, I moved to Thailand to work for an anti-trafficking organization. A few months into living there I decided I wanted to go to a church. I was lonely, exhausted, shell-shocked, and neck-deep in work that I couldn’t understand, couldn’t solve, and couldn’t escape from.
I found my way to an English-language church and sat in the back, in an open-air chapel surrounded by strangers. It was December, the first week of Advent, and as the piano played and people settled into their pews, I saw the words come up on the screen, “oh come let us adore him…” and I tasted the saltwater before I even knew I was crying. The feeling of familiarity when I was lost, the feeling of being visible, of speaking the language of those around me, of not being so alone, was overwhelming. In that moment, the nervousness of a new place and strangers and hot tropical breezes in December faded and all I felt was home.
We will have a lot of people who walk in the doors of our church, and every church, this weekend feeling alone, feeling like they don’t belong there, feeling guilty, ashamed, lonely, and exhausted. Some will be families trying their hardest to get their kids into pastel clothes that grandma got them, some will be college kids and twenty-somethings in jeans wondering if the God that once captured their imagination as a kid was still there for them, some will be widowers, and single moms, and disgruntled teenagers, and screaming babies. In-laws and grandkids and neighbors and friends and people who just turned up because they drive by this place on the way to work every day, and its Easter, and they just thought that maybe they should try, will be flooding in our doors.
What a gift it is to have them. What a sacred moment to be invited into in someone’s life. What a treasure to be the door that a person, maybe who is just hearing the whispers of God’s call of love for the first time, walks through. What a weighty and sacred privilege it is to be the bearers of Good News. That privilege, by the way, doesn’t just fall on Dr. Bruster, or Lance, or Tom, or Charme, or Mister Mark, or the choir, or us over on the youth staff. That privilege falls on those people in the parking lot that show a confused and slightly hungover group of college kids where to go. That privilege falls on the volunteers up in the children’s wing helping an overwhelmed mom check-in and know that her kids are seen and safe and well taken care of. That privilege falls on you when you get to give up your normal seat, and welcome the people who took it.
When we embrace that privilege, when we acknowledge it for the sacred and holy ground that it is, we have an experience of discipleship like little other. When we love outside of our comfort zone, we find that God is always with us. And when we embrace that privilege, something even more important happens. When we embrace that privilege, we have just a shot at creating for those wanderers, those college kids and tired moms and single thirty-somethings who aren’t sure where they fit, a sense of being home. We can create for them what I heard at the first beat of that first Advent song, a moment where the nervousness, and loneliness, and exhaustion fades, and Good News, the best news, shines through.
So yes, there will be orchestras and choirs and flowers and sermons this weekend, and trust that we’ve got that part covered, but for that Good News to shine through, that crashing wave of relief, of feeling that you’ve finally come home, we will need y’all. Remember what it felt like to feel like a stranger in this place, and remember how beautiful it was when that changed. Easter is coming y’all, we have Good News to share, and I hope we embrace the sacred privilege of having the chance to tell it.
If you want a formal volunteering spot, you can email Lisa Helm (firstname.lastname@example.org), and if you aren’t sure where to go and who to sit with, Matt and I will be with the teenagers in the Justin from 9:30 to 10:30, but look out for us and a bunch of others in the garden wearing “Ask Me” badges. You can come sit with us.
Director of Youth Ministries