by Ken Rolheiser
Going beyond our self-imposed restrictions

Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the church where he was to be introduced as the head pastor that morning. He walked around for 30 minutes while people entered. Only three said hello to him; most looked the other way. He asked for change to buy food because he was hungry. Not one gave him anything.

He sat down in the front of the church and was told by the ushers to go sit in the back. He said hello to people who greeted him with cold stares and dirty looks.

He sat in the back and listened to the church announcements for the week. New visitors were welcomed, but no one acknowledged him. He watched people around him continue to look his way with unwelcoming stares.

Then the elders of the church introduced the new Pastor. The congregation stood up and looked around, clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle.

All the clapping stopped and the church was silent. With all eyes on him, he walked up to the altar and reached for the microphone. He stood there for a moment and then elegantly recited a verse from the bible:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.’”

After he introduced himself as their new pastor many began to cry and bow their heads in shame. "Today I see a gathering of people here, but I do not see a church of Jesus. The world has enough people that look the other way. When will YOU decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed service until the following Sunday.

Our behaviour often follows self-imposed restrictions that keep us in our comfort zone. We could break free from these limitations if we asked ourselves one simple question, “What would Jesus do?”

We are really challenged when we confront the needy in the market place. I remember my indecision when approached by a beggar on the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa on Christmas Eve. It is much easier to write a cheque sitting at your desk and balancing your cheque book. You know just how much to give.

The Dalai Lama said, “There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.”

What a wonderful opportunity we have during these forty days of Lent.

(522 words)