Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Was a Stranger...

I had a couple of very odd experiences, back to back. I have been working far from home for several weeks, and so church is a little different we you're on the road. Experience #1, I dropped in at a church that kinda resembled my own church back home. I didn't expect them to bake me a cake, I just thought I would look at the place, because you can usually tell what's important by looking at the building. It's usually a long-shot to meet a minister on a weekday of course. So, I walked up to the big glass doors to the big lobby. Inside the glass were two handsome, wholesome men with laptops, intently conversing. They were three feet from me, but I was locked out. So I stood, and looked expectantly. They knew I was there. But they didn't dare look up at me. So, I stood. I refused to knock on the door because they were obviously and irrefutably aware of my presence. The fact that they would not so much as glance proved they knew the door was locked. Bible study, or some accountability thing. Maybe planning a project. So I stood there waiting for Jesus to return. The same evening I visited a Home Group meeting with a friend. Handsome, wholesome people, good brownies. Strange experience #2. In the two hours I was there, so help me, not one word was addressed to me unless it was an response to something I asked or said. Eerily, nobody looked at me either. The leader was a barrage of words, wonderful, smart, biblical words. God is a God of covenant. He loves. He reaches to us, as epitomized by Jesus. I sat at his left elbow and he never once turned his head toward me. But he addressed the last few minutes of the biblical torrent toward "anyone who may be present who feels like they just don't know God in the way these people do." Don't get me wrong, these were cool people, and I knew they would be my friends if we attended the same church for long. But as it was, this whole thing was just flat weird. As you may know, I am a veteran leader of such groups, and not exactly shy. And as you would guess, I kept ratcheting up the "gregarious level" to contrast with the odd indifference. Dude, I was a guest in someone's home. But if it had been an elevator the environment would not have been more impersonal.

There is an obvious common thread in these two encounters, that is that I was a stranger in a strange place. But I think there is a common thing on the part of those I encountered. What is it, and what can we learn from it?