I have no idea how much courage it takes to walk into a church for the first time, uninvited, curious, knowing no one, not knowing what to expect, wondering how I’ll be treated and hoping that I don’t make a fool of myself.
I haven’t done that for a long, long time. I think the last time was 1982 when I had just moved to Austin, TX, found the nearest Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod congregation, and showed up for worship at Christ Lutheran Church on the south side of the city. I am thankful for their gracious welcome and letting me be a part of their church life for the next 8 months.
I thought of this when a family I had never met before came to our evening midweek Advent worship last night. They found us on Facebook. Cool. We put a lot of stuff out there hoping that some of over two billion users will see it. They did, and they came. I was conscious of their presence all night. I may have been more nervous than they were. Going though my mind: Will the members step up and welcome them? Will my message speak to them? Will they find the service meaningful? Will they like me, our church, the experience?
All right, take a breath. This isn’t an audition. This is worship. We are responding to the presence of the Savior and his gifts of grace. The angels in heaven are rejoicing when one sinner repents, and that includes my moments. It is a privilege and a blessing to simply be a place where a family can find a moment of quiet, grace and joy in a busy, demanding and unforgiving world.
My prayer is that we welcome the people we meet for the first time as those whom our Lord has known since before they came to be. A friend of Jesus ought always be a friend of mine.