“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 5:27
No one would ever say this: “I’ve got a great idea for a restaurant! Hungry senior citizens served by kids who argue when they’re asked to clear the table.” But each year our church hosts a luncheon for our elderly members. The servers are our fifth graders.
Last year I was seated next to an agitated senior. He wore a helmet because he’d lost his sense of balance. He spoke in a thick German accent. I waited tables as an adult. He would have scared me.
When our child waiter came by, the old man reached out and grabbed the boy’s wrist. “You look like my friend,” he said, “from when I was a boy.” The waiter set his tray of coffee down, and said, “Ah” in a child’s gentle voice.
Then he just stood there. He didn’t seem flustered. He didn’t know how to wait tables, didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing. Instead, he stepped closer to the old man. In an instant their awkward handshake became something else; the two were holding hands. The old man talked about his friend. The boy asked a few questions about being a child in Germany.
They held hands. The coffee got cold. They smiled at each other. Eventually the boy wandered off and the old man relaxed into his chair.
And so it goes at church, where the waiters don’t know how to do their jobs, the customers want more than lunch and we’re all given more than we could ever hope to expect.
Dear God, thank you for giving us a taste of your upside-down Kingdom inside brick buildings and clapboard meeting houses. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL.