First, he showed up three weeks ago, right when we were busy with our big Welcome Sunday. He came in looking just like one of the homeless people we often get from the shelter a couple of blocks away. I wasn't sure it was him, and did the usual procedure of alerting the ushers. In the past, some of our shelter visitors have taken to roaming the halls and stopping folks asking for money. But now we have a pass-code on the door leading to the Nursery wing and ushers have been asked to intercede if the pan-handling starts.
But right before the worship processional began that day, I saw Jesus seated at the back by one of our members, who pleasantly pointed out to me we have a guest today. And our member took Jesus to the lunch we were having that day, and apparently invited him back.
The next Sunday I saw him walking up the street before the early service, stooped over a bit, with a sort of shuffle -step. Afterwards he asked about a Sunday School class. Another member said she'd show him to a class of people about the same age, and led him away.
I thought that was the end of it, but last Sunday, when I got to the front of the sanctuary at the second service, I saw him sitting in the back. Unmistakable - crumpled clothes, mis-aligned smile, and hair done by fingers, sitting in a sea of properness.
Yesterday, just after I'd started my Inquirer's Class, for new and prospective members, the door opened, and in he came. We had to stop for a moment while some of the folks made room for another chair in the circle. Then we continued our introductions to one another.
We learned that Jesus had a name, a pretty name, Elenita. Had recently moved into supervised adult-living apartments nearby. And was frustrated because each Sunday, the supervisor says she isn't supposed to walk the three blocks away from the apartment, but she insists she is going to church. Whereupon the other class members encouraged her.
And on the Sabbath, he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. (Luke 4:16.) Thank you, Lord, for honoring us with your presence. Thank you, members, for your welcoming spirit. Maybe this "Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds" marketing line means something after all.