Written by Matt Fitzgerald
"Enter God's gates with thanksgiving." - Psalm 100:4
When I was a child church evoked two emotions: boredom and awe. The two were not distributed in equal measure. Large swaths of seemingly endless boredom punctuated by the occasional instant of awe. The awe came on rarely, once or twice a year. It came down from on high while I stared at an altar candle during an organ solo, or caught the sunlight streaming through Jesus' face in the stained glass. So I kept my head up, bored but hopeful.
One Sunday morning the residents from a neighborhood group home came to worship. There were about ten guys, each developmentally disabled. They looked like the seven dwarves from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." Long beards, flannel shirts and clean-pressed jeans marching in unison toward a pew.
In front me of were two elderly, boring church members. I sat behind them every week and barely noticed. If anything interesting was going to happen in church it would be between me and God. One of them gestured at our bearded guests and whispered loudly, "What are they doing here?" I sat up, immediately anxious. How could anyone be so mean?
The man sitting next to him turned and whispered back, even louder, as if he were explaining a simple math problem to a stupid child, "What are they doing here? They're going to church." His grumpy neighbor's head snapped back. What a zinger! I felt like cheering. Who knew such intensity was available right there in the pews? Awesome! I turned my eyes from heaven, toward the people all around me.
Dear God, thank you for all the interesting people who walk through the doors of your house. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.