Monday, January 30, 2006
We live in a culture where appearance is everything. I just came from a place where appearance means almost nothing. After spending a week in New Orleans I’ve come to appreciate people much more than I ever have, regardless of their appearance. For most of the people I encountered, there is no way to fabricate any type of façade that will hide what’s really happening in their lives. The only facades that have been created are those of the media and the government, primarily local, that would give people who don’t know any better the impression that things are OK. The reality can be found in the faces and attitudes of the people our group encountered during the week. They’re desperate, they’re longing, they’re hopeful, they’re compassionate, and they are acknowledging of the reality that they all share. In St. Bernards Parish we we’re privileged to encounter a place called “The Made With Love Café”. The hand painted sign at the entrance communicated boldly what you would encounter once inside. It read, “All Are Welcome”. All truly were welcomed, from the residents who are trying to salvage bits of their lives from the muck and two by fours that once were their homes, to those who have come to volunteer some assistance. The group who ran this café were a truly eclectic group who have come from all over the country simply to serve those who need it most. They give sacrificially from sun up to sun down. They are the heroes. They supply hope along with every meal they serve. Their assembly, their sacrifice, their appearance and their sign still are burned into my brain. All are welcome. What a concept. This was the most magnetic part of the ministry of Jesus and also the most controversial. All are welcome. What would happen to us in the church if we looked like this outpost of a café? I’ve encountered many people in the last few years that live more like this than I have or for that matter those who I hang out with. It was interesting being their in the midst of the café. I felt more at home there than many church gatherings that I’ve been a part of. We say that everyone is welcome . We say that Christ came for all. But when they come around we see them more as a side show attraction. We stare, we gawk, we wonder what planet they just beamed down from. They are just people though. They are just people. And I bet that a whole lot less thought and planning went into their travels to serve than went into mine. For many if not most, all they needed to know was that people were in need and they could serve. For me it was more of a travel package deal with airlines, rental cars, work schedule arrangements, wanting to know where I’d eat, where I’d sleep. Don’t get me wrong…the group that I traveled with gave of themselves, their time, their money, their lives, more than most ever will. But for all of us, it was work and thought and schedule to work through. The point is this…the people that we tend to look sideways at are sometimes more easily, fluidly, and willingly serving in ways that should just be natural for the church to be part of. Maybe we’re just to safe behind the walls and too caught up in appearances.