Friday, April 16, 2010

Preaching the Gospel St. Francis-Style

I recently received an email that tells the touching story of a college-aged new Christian named Bill who attends his first worship service at a very conservative, traditional church wearing flip flops, jeans and a t-shirt with holes. His unkempt hair and less-than-casual attire draw the eyes of everyone in the crowded church. People are looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Not a seat is to be found as Bill walks down the aisle getting closer and closer to the pulpit. Finding no available seat, and to the dismay of many, he just sits right down on the carpet in the aisle. The story goes on to tell about a deacon of that church who is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and is wearing a three-piece suit. He is a godly man, very elegant, very dignified, and very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this young man, everyone is saying to themselves that you can't blame him for what he's going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor? The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man's cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can't even hear anyone breathing. It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The elderly man drops his cane on the floor and with great difficulty, he lowers himself and sits down next to Bill and worships with him so he won't be alone. Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control, he says, “What I'm about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.”

While the story may be contrived, it is an excellent example of the kind of thing that Christ did throughout his ministry. In his love and compassion, he ate with the sinners, healed the sick, and gave hope to the desolate while the religious people of the time shunned the sinners, blamed the sick for their own infirmities and mocked the desolate. He gave his time and his attention to the outcasts and the forgotten. While the elite lorded their own traditions and rules over the less fortunate, the Lord reflected the heart of God in service to them.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he instructed his disciples to spread the good news to all creation and, as his followers, that is our call as well. We need to be in earnest prayer that God would shine through all we do each and every day. Our desire must be that in all we say and do, Christ is the impression that is left on the minds and hearts of those we come in contact with. God blesses us to be a blessing to others. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Like the old man in the story, we may have to struggle to show Christ’s love and because we are human, we will often fail. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that we have the great privilege of being in a loving relationship with God Almighty and we have the extraordinary responsibility and joy of reaching out to the world around us in his Name.

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” -St. Francis of Assisi

About the pictures:
North Park (2009)

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