Then Jesus turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing.” – Luke 14:12-14 (MSG)
A man fell asleep on my front lawn. At least, I hoped he was asleep. I had just walked outside to see if the mail had come and while a glance told me the mailbox was still empty, it was more difficult to tell if the man was still breathing.
This was April 2020, the height of the Covid-19 lockdown. My home felt like the only safe space left on earth, an illusion now burst by a stranger stretched out on his side under a towering pine tree.
Swallowing my anxiety and breaking the rules of social distancing, I approached him, asking, “Sir, are you okay?” The man murmured and came to life. “I’m sorry. I got tired but didn’t mean to fall asleep here.” Relief startled me out of my unease.
We talked, exchanged stories, and he accepted my offer of food and water. He looked through the hastily prepared bag and in gratitude gave me his own offering: a hug.
That was the last hug I shared outside my household for almost a year. The food I offered likely only lasted a day or two, but the powerful feeling of physically connecting with someone I didn’t know stays with me still.
There are many ways this story could have gone. I’m thankful that both of us accepted the invitation to connect and offer what we were able.
From the road to Damascus to our front lawns, may we recognize Christ in unexpected encounters.
Liz Miller serves as the pastor of Edgewood United Church (UCC) in East Lansing, Michigan.