Somehow I don't think it was a coincidence that he came into the church when I was standing behind the food serving line. Tentative, but hungry enough to open the door and venture inside, he said Martha's Kitchen, the local homeless shelter a few blocks away, had sent him when he arrived there after dinner. We were serving pancakes for a choir fund raiser that Shrove Tuesday night. I hesitated for only a second before saying, "Have a plate!" Fund raising could wait. We are a church after all. When I looked up a few minutes later, I saw him sitting by himself. His faded clothes and nervous manner set him apart from the rest of the familiar, festive crowd. I left the the food service to others, grabbed a cup of coffee and went to sit across from him. In retrospect, I think the conversation may have been as important to him as the food. I learned he had been in the Navy, where he worked as a cook, serving thousands of meals on a ship. He said when he was in high school, college and the Navy, he never suspected he would end up homeless. He also told me his mom had died very recently. I discovered he knew a lot about the Bible. He talked about Abraham's demonstration of his faith when he was willing to offer up his son as a sacrifice, something we had just discussed in the Sunday school class I had been teaching on the Epistle of James. He said our country had its problems, but was better off than the ones he'd seen during his Navy time. He declined more food, saying, "I cannot eat much at a time anymore." When he rose to leave, I told him to come back, and he smiled. He offered me his hand, and on impulse, I gave him a hug. He hugged me back fiercely--the best hug I've had in some time--and in the process blessed me more than anything I had done for him. I think Jesus came to our church on Shrove Tuesday, and I almost missed his visit. I'm glad I was paying attention for once. I worry about the times I am not so attentive and miss God's presence.
Grace and Peace,