Her compressed lips were a rebuke, her eyes pools of disdain as the woman whispered judgment.
"Some of your people are being very disruptive. Two families have already left because of them. Please speak to them!"
I was a bit surprised. Duane and Larry, two homeless men we've "adopted" over many months, have come to church with us many times. Duane was once reprimanded for saying "Hallelulah!" at what was either an inappropriate time or in too loud a voice, but otherwise they have quietly absorbed the message, enjoyed the worship and even dropped some money in the offering.
As I approached them to deliver the standard "Calm down, this is church" message, I saw tears in their eyes. The associate pastor had just finished talking about sin with an emphasis on Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse ..."
Just before the self-appointed guardian of our congregation had approached me, the associate pastor had invited anyone ready to deal with their sin to come down for prayer.
Nobody was taking him up on that offer.
Duane looked me in the eye and said, "We have to go up for prayer and I mean right now! Will you go with us?"
Forgetting my intended purpose to rein in these wayward lambs, I found myself walking down the aisle between two sobbing homeless men. As we prayed with them, they repented of many of the sins that have kept them in bondage for years. Instead of vowing to "do better" or quit drinking, they threw themselves on the mercy of Jesus and asked that the Holy Spirit change them from within.
I carefully avoided looking at the woman whose rebuke had somehow snowballed into this all-too-public confession. Yet I couldn't help wondering who among these hundreds of worshippers had been touched.
Later in the week, it was this woman's turn to write the message for an email the church sends out. Perhaps it means nothing, but here is what it said, in part:
"I have thoroughly loved and benefited from "The Sin Tour" series over the past few weeks. I believe that God is using this teaching to open up hearts and minds to see where and how God wants to touch our lives. ... I encourage each and every one of you to come ready each week to let God 'mess' with your heart. I promise that it might hurt a little up front, but the rewards are amazing!"
God often leaves me speechless. Usually I think it's for the best.
I never got the opportunity to speak to this woman. I never got the chance to pass her message along to my homeless friends.
But in my silence, God spoke volumes.
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