By RuthAnne Henley
Something wonderful happened at our Bible Study last night.
This Lenten season we are studying the impact of the seven last words of Jesus on the ongoing mission of the Church. We had come to the third saying, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” (John 19:26-27a).
I had just suggested that rather than passing off the care of his mother to the system of the world – her next of kin – Jesus had assured that he would continue to care for her personally through the agency of the Church, his Body here on Earth.
We then looked at Luke 8:20-21: “Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” We discussed the possibility that those seekers who came to us for legitimate aid were family to Jesus, and by extension, our family. Their care was our responsibility.
I followed with some practical examples of the sort of folk we might need to see as mothers, brothers, and sisters of Jesus. One of the examples I suggested was a cold, hungry, and exhausted man stumbling in off the trail in search of a solid meal and a warm place to rest.
As if on cue we had a knock at the door of the fellowship hall where we were meeting at Draper United Methodist Church. In came a man who was walking the New River Trail that runs by our building. He was not a leisure hiker. He was one of the many long-term unemployed who have fallen off the national radar, losing their place in society because of our economy’s uncertainty.
He had family several states away and had some hope of employment there. He was walking through the blowing snow toward that flicker of hope when he saw the lights of the church and came in to find a warm place to shelter before facing another night with nothing but a sleeping bag between him and the cruel elements.
I watched in wonder as the message God had shared through me came alive and went to work in the midst of the gathered Church. In a flurry of activity and creative thinking, the man was welcomed, warmed, fed, and appropriately settled for the night. In the morning he would be on his way to his uncle’s home by a more direct and less strenuous route.
Rather than resenting the intrusion on our time and the tapping of our resources, the Church in the House expressed gratitude to God for allowing us the privilege of caring for this brother.
The Rev. RuthAnne G. Henley is pastor of the Draper Circuit, Wytheville District.