Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
A young man dressed in wrinkled clothes came into the church building one Sunday morning a few minutes before worship was scheduled to begin. He asked for some food and for some money. This urban congregation ran a weekday breakfast ministry and was also the official monthly food pantry for that area of the city. One of the church elders told the visitor that the congregation would help him, but since worship was about to start, he had to wait until we completed our Sunday program. The young man sat down in the back pew. He waited. He didn’t sing, or open a hymnal, or stand when everyone stood. He sat quietly and waited.
After worship, a couple bags of food were handed to him. Another member gave him a small amount of cash. He was invited to come back to worship again.
Some weeks later the board of elders discussed what we did that day. Most of the elders felt that some people arrive with their requests just before worship is about to start, because they are trying to manipulate members and to catch the members off guard when they are busy preparing for worship. We talked about how we could balance compassion with discernment.
The elders and the food-pantry leaders decided to help anyone who asked for help on a Sunday. But they wanted to do it after they followed their regular Sunday worship schedule.
Was it an interruption of worship, or a moment for ministry?
When a man with an unclean spirit cries out to Jesus in a synagogue, our Lord responds. Jesus heals the man. Jesus leads us to show who God is to people in our world.
Are we willing to be interrupted?
Bruce Weaknecht, pastor, Moravian Church, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey