I recently heard a church story that I've found myself repeatedly mulling over and thought I'd share with you. I guess it's a story about outsiders and insiders, and welcome and invitation, and resurrection. It's a story that showed me a blind spot.
At a church on Easter Sunday, a visitor arrived late and there wasn't a seat left in the sanctuary, so she was asked sit in an overflow area. She angrily cussed the ushers before heading to the overflow.
My first reaction was a gut check. Who comes to church on Easter and cusses the ushers? Who comes late to church on Easter? What could possibly be more offensive? Those poor ushers didn't sign up for that, did they?
Despite my initial shock, grace prevailed as I next concluded that this was an incredible opportunity for that church. Surely, this woman was unchurched. She probably uses raw language in her daily life; she probably gets what she wants or needs by being insistent. Yet somehow, she saw some ray of hope that led her to visit a church on Easter. How cool for that church, to have the opportunity to shine a light into this woman's life, even if it was from the overflow.
Then someone else's reaction to this story truly humbled me. Who, if anyone, needed a seat in the sanctuary on Easter? So many people who were occupying seats already knew about God's love. So many people were soaking in the Easter celebration, who already had Grace. Why didn't anyone offer that woman a seat?
Wow. Yes. Of course. Why didn't I see that?
I know how obstacles stand in the way of faith. I've been at plenty of church executive board meetings through the years, pushing for better parking lot access, for gentler sayings on the church sign...I even passionately considered switching my attendance to Denny's at one point, because of the many ways they removed the hardest obstacles and made my family feel invited on Sunday mornings.
But I'm realistic. There aren't very many churches out there running out of seats. Not even on Easter. Yet when it comes down to it, I had to examine my heart. Would I give up my seat in the sanctuary on Easter Sunday to an angry visitor? Are there ways, if I look at the hard spots in my heart, I am directing people to the overflow? How am I clinging to the comfort of my own faith expression at the expense of others who don't yet know?
“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor." Luke 14:8