Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not Always An Emergency, But Always Important

Columbus' Finest Visit the Epworth Parsonage
Around Midnight
   The first thing I said to the 911 dispatcher on the phone was, "this is a non-emergency call." One night earlier this week we smelled something like natural gas in the hallway of the parsonage and our Carbon Monoxide monitor had gone off for a few seconds. We got the boys up, moved them outside and wanted the experts from Columbus' Fire and Rescue to come check it out. It wasn't an emergency, everyone was OK, but to four Hagans and one puppy, it was important. Those two firetrucks that pulled up in a matter of minutes were exactly what was needed. They were professional, kind, and in the end gave us the all clear. Their beautiful service, acted out throughout the day and night, is offered for those in the midst of emergencies and the rest of us, as well.
   It is so very similar in our church. People visit. They return. They attend worship and, hopefully, find their way to Sunday School classes and small groups. All of this happens with a destination in mind: we want people going out into the world to serve. We want  every person who gathers with us, either once or often, to engage in our process of growing persons to go out and be great neighbors. The Lord knows the world needs more great neighbors.
   We do not know why a person attends for the first time. Often, we don't know why they return. Further, we don't know if the status of their lives away from Epworth should be termed an emergency or not. It could be. It could be related to work, to school, to children, to parents, to doubt, or success, or any of a thousand things. Or it could be none of them. Some people are just led one day to find a place to connect. To grow. To find their place in a larger story than the one they are living at the time. Whatever brings them, every reason is important.
   This is why our response is so critical. We must open doors for them. Literally. We must open our hearts for them. We must smile. We must learn names, connect stories, and invite them to return. We must know why we are here, and share our stories when the time is right. Paul lists hospitality as one of the required actions of people of faith (Romans 12). We must serve as greeters, ushers, Sunday School teachers, and volunteers with children. Everyone of us must take seriously the challenge to fill up their own buses with passengers headed to the greatest destination imaginable. 
   Grace and Peace to you, Scott

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