He picked an odd place to sleep. I guess, but then maybe not. The odd place to sleep just happened to be right in front of the front doors of our church. He could have consulted with me first and picked a better time. The better time to pick would have been any time besides Saturday night. Last I checked, Saturday night is followed by Sunday morning.
We have church at 8:30 on Sunday morning. I know it is an ungodly hour. We have members who say that they don’t believe in God until they have had their coffee. By the time they stagger into 8:30 church, most of them have had their coffee and their faith has been restored with the cup of joe.
So, when the homeless man decided to sleep at the front door of the church on Saturday night, that meant that he would be there Sunday morning for church. He was there, sound asleep with a back pack, a cat, and a dog. His dog and cat were asleep as well. They had not had their morning cup of coffee and faith.
In the famous words from the great flick, Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Boy, did we ever have that! My 8:30 Sunday challenge is to wake parishioners up, but this was taking it to new heights. Any minute people would be arriving for worship, and they would have to step over or around the homeless man. Dedicated church people would be arriving, with eyes propped open and faith flickering, to hear music, readings, and another 8:30 AM scintillating sermon. I am grateful that some folk get up and get to church that early, and surely it is too much to ask them to step over or around a homeless man.
Had he not read our website? Did he not know that we begin promptly at 8:30? Had anyone told him that pets are not allowed in worship? Surely a quick glance at our Facebook page would have given him a clue about what to wear to worship. Things seemed to be getting worse as we tried unsuccessfully to awaken him. What finally got him awake was his dog woke up and began to bark. That got him and the cat going.
He was nice and apologetic. “No problem,” we said. We got him some food and a motel room for the day. We should have invited him in for worship. Or maybe we should have had the sermon and song on the front door step of the church. A great place to start worship would have been for him to tell us his story. How did he wind up homeless and, pray tell, how did he wind up on our church doorstep? Maybe the best act of worship would have been to forego the sermon and songs and spend an hour listening.
I don’t know why he came to the church, but I have a hunch. People show up at our church all the time because they see the steeple. What kind of people? Homeless. Hungry. Happy. Limping. Skipping. Lonely. Angry. Depressed. Bewildered. Disappointed. In the words of Charles Poole: “People come to the steeples because they assume that wherever there is a steeple at the top there is a sanctuary at the bottom.” People come for healing, rest, and a chance to start over. Or a place to sleep. Most sleeping takes place during the sermon, by the way, not on the front door step.
I am not sure we did the right thing by getting him a motel room and food. (Out of sight, out of mind?) Perhaps that should have been step two. Step one should have been to invite him to church or better yet, have church on the front door steps. We did the expedient thing but maybe not the right thing.
Maybe next time he will check out our website to see what time worship starts. It starts after coffee.
Dr. Steve Davis