We went to Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco this morning. I clutched my purse as Lily and I threaded our way through homeless folks who hung around the church like they’d be welcome. And they were. Most came for the soup kitchen, some for the services.
Folks were already on their feet, swaying and clapping to Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior. One look around and I noticed an inclusive place. The truth telling and unconditional love made me feel like I might’ve dropped into an AA meeting. Is church supposed to be so honest? So welcoming to all colors, nationalities, dress, styles and smells?
On the wall behind the pulpit these words projected the message for 2016. “Our hope is not in the New Year but in the ONE who makes all things new.”
The minister for this Sunday preached from Philippians 4:8-9, familiar passage to me in an unfamiliar setting. She urged us to look at 2016 like we’re going on a trip. Plan. Be intentional. Think! And to help us, she took us back to the Bible.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9(NLT)
This church is known for its music and social outreach programs. A black Jesus hung from the cross. People hugged, held hands, prayed and sang. Their prayers requests were raw, real. Nobody said, “Jesus” from the pulpit. Later, I wondered where He’d feel more at home, among the grit and grunge of society or in one of our prettier places, safe and sound?
Somehow, this setting made me reflect again on Bethlehem, a one star hovel, not a 5 star hotel. A stable alive with flies, stench of urine, manure, animals and sheep herders. Yet, God thought it Good and sent out the invitation to, “Come and see…” It was and still is a come as you are invitation from God to us. Which reminds me of my conversation with Basil a few days back. I suggested he and I clean up the bedroom he shares with his brother before Luke and his Dad returned from a trip that afternoon. Basil said, “It’s O.K., Momo. We only clean up for people who don’t live here!”
And that’s part of why I wish we could talk, God, about what really needs cleaning up in this New Year, about that one star stable, Glide Memorial and churches that look and smell so good, I’m afraid they’d lock the door, if they ever got a whiff of the stench from my own heart. And then, there’s the fact that You seem less concerned about who You hang out with and where, than I.
“Can we talk?”
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