I forget most of the conversation between a trout fisherman and me, but I remember two sentences quite well.
He said, “I’m pissed.”
Then he said, “I’ve got a pistol.”
Oh, great! A pissed-off, pistol-packing person. Now how am I supposed to respond to that?
Let me give you the rest of the story.
On the nicest day in a week, I picked up the Collins girls (my friends’ two labs) and took Penny and them out to the country for a romp. Upon arrival at the county park, we discovered a trout fisherman working the creek. No big deal.
I exchanged a few pleasantries with him then took the dogs up into the hills away from the creek. A half hour later, I neared the creek but walked to the far side of the meadow so as not to disturb him. Unfortunately for the humans involved, the girls wanted a swim.
He asked, “How long have they been in the creek?”
I said, “They’ve been in and out as we’ve walked.”
That’s when he offered the above responses. That’s also when I called all the louder for the dogs to come to me.
Let me make something very clear. I did something I’ve done multiple times—take the dogs to the county park. They did what they normally do—romp, play, and swim. I didn’t intentionally, maliciously, or knowingly try to ruin the guy’s day. I came to enjoy a beautiful day’s hike with three energetic dogs.
Then the exchange happened.
And I felt bummed. I was embarrassed and ashamed.
I came expecting to have a good time with the girls and I did have a wonderful time. Until …
“I’ve got a pistol.”
I remember reading about a teenage girl who came to church in a tank top and tight jeans. She came hungry to know God. She came to worship Him and be a part of His people. For her, entering the church was a risky, courageous business. She had no family encouragement and had grown up outside church circles.
A member of the church approached her and said, “How can you come to church dressed like that? Don’t you respect God?”
I know how that young woman felt.
Excited upon arrival.
Ashamed upon departure.
Allow me to make some suggestions.
Watch for the wanderer. Scripture is filled with wandering souls. An old man and his wife depart for an unknown country. A servant seeks a wife for his master. A young man visits relatives he’s never known. A nation travels across the wilderness. Crowds follow Jesus into the country side.
Welcome the weird. In each of the above scenes, the wanderers were people not known among the locals. And upon arrival, they needed something—food, drink, lodging, guidance. And someone provided for their needs.
By God’s grace and wisdom, I pray you and I, living among the faithful and worshiping in community, will be that someone.
Instead of two sentences to dread, I offer you two words to embrace.
I’m curious. What has someone said or done to make you feel welcome within a church? How might you welcome others?
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