“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 9: 17
It was a little church near Cleveland.
The pastor rose early one Sunday and struggled out into a blizzard at about 4 a.m. to get a feel for the streets. He knelt to pray a few moments before deciding whether to open the church or not that day. He was surprised to hear a knock at the door. Opening it, he found a woman, alone, shivering, covered with snow.
“I saw your light,” she said. “It was the only light on the street, and I knew I had to get out of the cold. I’ve been walking all night in the storm, wondering if I should kill myself.”
I don’t remember the rest of the story, except I know she stayed long enough to get warm, to talk, and to decide not to kill herself.
For some reason, the story made me think of Jim.
He was one of the saints, a 40-something electrician. He and his brothers ran a little business a block from the church, and he was one of the most faithful of the church’s members.
We had been having trouble with a chair lift. It carried older and weaker people up 20 steps to the sanctuary each Sunday. It wasn’t as good as an elevator might have been, but at least people could buckle in and make it up to the service. It had quit working a week earlier, and the chair lift company wanted a small fortune just to look at it.
Jim volunteered to check it out, and here he was, working away. He had spent most of the morning analyzing the problem. We decided we needed to replace the special cable that rolled out behind the chair, carrying the power that ran the electric motor that moved the chair up and down. It was an expensive item. After Jim figured out the problem, he went and got the cable from some supplier, then returned and worked another hour or two installing it.
Meanwhile, he was ignoring the little business that supported his family.
Hesitantly I asked how much this was going to cost.
He didn’t say anything for a long time. It was like he didn’t hear the question. He just kept working. But then he looked up and answered. He told me something I had never known before.
“I was pretty wild as a kid,” he said. “I did a lot of crazy things. The people in this church didn’t care. They invited me in and loved me. They saved my life.
“There won’t be any charge.”
I don’t know – can’t know – why every person comes to my little church. We’re not a great cathedral with 200 years of history, nor are we a giant successful megachurch with the greatest praise band. Some of those who are here may come because mom and dad brought them when they were little. Others may have found a friend. One man came because his teammates in the church softball league prayed for him. Two days a week, people line up because they need food. Young men and women from the neighborhood sometimes come and ask the pastor to marry them and end up staying to figure out how to make the marriage last. Children come every night: cheerleaders to practice, scouts to learn scouting, classes to learn about Jesus. Sometimes people from the neighborhood come to hold meetings about community issues. One little faithful band comes to pray.
But don’t ever forget: Some come to be saved.
Reflect on your life for 10 minutes. Why did you come?
Lord, thank you for the living stones that you placed in my path. Thank you for the privilege of attempting to become a living stone in order to raise up your name. Thank you for the sinners, the curmudgeons, the saints. For friends and foes. Each one was trying, I believe, as best he or she could to come to know you. They have together shown me a path to faith. Watch over them all. Bless them. Guide them. Protect them. Amen.