I thought I had the place to myself.
I usually do. I get up early on purpose, because I want to have the room to myself. I want to practice my sermon in an empty sanctuary before I deliver it to a living, breathing congregation. I need to hear my voice. I need to listen to the stories. I have to know what it sounds like before worshipers gather to sing, pray and receive my message.
I’ve got my routine. Unlock the doors, turn on a few lights, fire up the sound system, and fill up my water glass. I could do it in my sleep.
Five minutes into my rehearsal, I saw him. Back row, left side, on the aisle. Who in the world would be here this early? The musicians aren’t even here yet. I didn’t stop. I continued making points, adding illustrations and pointing out applications.
As I finished, I turned off the timer and walked back to meet this predawn arrival. Before I could say, “Hi,” he said, “I need you to open the safe.”
If was still a little sleepy before, I was wide awake now. “Well,” I said, “First of all, we don’t have any money here. Second, I don’t even know the combination.”
As you can imaging, my answer was not well received. He growled, “Well then, you better call someone who does!” I didn’t see a weapon. Maybe he had one in his pocket. I was still about ten feet away. No one else would arrive for at least half an hour. What were my options? Run? I can run. I would leave this guy in the dust. Give him my wallet? Sorry, no cash in there either. Stall? Sometimes the local deputies meet in our parking lot. When I glanced out the window, though, I didn’t see any cars. Call someone from the congregation who knew the combination and use a code word so they would call for help? I don’t think we have a code word.
Startled, I woke up. First the buzzing then the soft thudding my my phone alarm was going off. I reached over and turned it off. 4:30 am. My heart was racing. But it was a dream.
For the next several weeks, I carefully scanned the parking lot before I got out of my car in the predawn hours of a Sunday morning. I kept all the doors locked while I prepared for morning worship. I thanked God for the deputies conversing under the portico. I was also grateful for those long days of summer, when the sun arrives before I do.
Why were my dreams filled with such images in the middle of the night? I’ve never had a problem, never been threatened, never even thought about the possibility of being in danger. I’ve probably been watching too much police and detective TV, where such things happen daily in the lives of innocent people.
Anyway, if you were going to rob a church, wouldn’t you do it after the offering?