I went to a church on Sunday to hear my friend deliver the sermon. I arrived a half hour late and everyone was already seated. I surveyed the gaps of people to locate a seat that would leave an empty on each side of me. I think most visitors like that kind of safety margin.
I saw a section of six empty chairs so I quickly moved in that direction. I sat down but the guy a couple of seats to my right leaned over in my direction. “I’m sorry, that seat is saved. Would you mind scooting down another seat?”
I didn’t mind, and I moved down two seats just to show him I could go the extra mile. Then the man on the left of me leaned over. “I’m sorry, that seat is saved…”
I got up and left that aisle. I didn’t hold a grudge against the men, I just found it funny that we use the word saved in Christianity as being such a divine thing but to an outsider the same word can be used to let them know there is no room for them in the inn.
I found another half empty row hoping it was enough space for a seat-salvation margin of error. I sat down and no one challenged me so it appeared I was safe. But then I wasn’t. Thirty seconds later a friend sat down on my left and told me how glad she was that I was there. She told me she’d been missing me that morning and asked if she could sit with me. Then my right side margin of personal space evaporated when another friend took the seat on the other side of me.
I looked back and forth between the brunette on my left and the blonde on my right and considered that going to church with these two beautiful souls wasn’t such a bad thing. If I was keeping score it was now tied – two rejections and two receptions. I settled in for the sermon; my friend was about to be introduced.
Maybe a little background is necessary to understand the meaning of the next couple of paragraphs. One of the things that disturbs me so much about Sunday morning church services is the programmed nature. This may be oblivious to many spectators but I spent so many years trying to hone the perfect church service that it has left me jaded. I know all about making a good transition between worship (and what kind of song to end on) to the offering (and who should pray for it depending what the budget is that week), to the announcements (and the proper mix of humor and warmness) and to the sermon, follow up music, ministry time, and transition time before the next service. I know how important it is to keep on time and know how many minutes are set aside for each of those above components.
Honestly it is hard for me to sit in a church meeting and not mentally make a list of all of the items that should be discussed at the next staff meeting for making the following Sunday even more professional. I was trained to be a expert church meeting critic and I am too good at it for my own benefit.
So when the morning’s speaker, who had already been announced, stopped by my row and waited for me to stand and hug him before moving to the pulpit I melted. He could have used that time to make an extra sermon point. He might have even been able to recite that poem that was in his sermon notes. Instead he took his time, really everyone’s time, to hug one visitor. It was out of the box, and it saved the morning, for me.
And the Son stood still, hovering over us, and smiled.