It’s early Easter morning as I write this at Starbucks. Husband John has already come and gone to church to proclaim, “He is risen!” at the second of six services (The first was last night. Weird, but I guess it was already Easter somewhere in the world)
As I sit here, some come in dressed in their Easter best – pastel and fancy. All patent leathery. Others wander in their scruffy Sunday morning grunge – either clueless or apathetic or defiant. I wonder which as I watch them.
Last night John got an email from some friends who have had no use for church. It started, “You probably hate those ‘dicks’ who just show up at Christmas and Easter, but ___________(his wife) has had a rough month. Her dad died and she may show up at your church tomorrow.”
We respond with encouragement and welcome. “We’ll save you a place!”
The other day I took cookies over to my next door neighbors, also “not church” people. I included cards to invite them to join us for Easter at our church and lamely mumbled “We’d love to have you come, but no big deal if it’s not your thing.”
I continued to chat with my neighbor and her dog for another 15 minutes about everything and nothing. I turned to leave and she shouted after me, “See you Sunday!”
What the what?? I stopped in my tracks, thinking “You mean you’re COMING??? Just like that?? I didn’t expect you to, you know…actually respond!”
But what I said, all nonchalant and natural was “Great! I’ll save you a place!”
Last year I wrote, “One of the best gifts we can give each other is a place in community. That’s Easter. Jesus inviting everyone to enjoy a place at His table.”
John has shared in the past how we have adopted an idea originated with Bill Hybels. We refer to the seats outside the sanctuary as the Fool’s Bench. This is where folks wait for folks they’ve invited to church. They may be friends or family members they’ve prayed for for years. They sit and hope and pray, “Lord, please prompt them to come. Let nothing discourage them. Let them feel loved and welcomed.” It’s called the Fool’s Bench because you sit there alone, and sometimes no one shows. But sometimes they do.
So this morning I’ll be sitting on the Fool’s Bench, because Jesus, through the cross and resurrection is saying to any and all, “No matter who you are or where you’ve come from, I’ve been waiting for you! There’s a place saved with your name on it!”