Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rest Area

Today was the first (ever?) Downtown Knoxville Christmas Brunch at First Baptist. Our church hosted 400 homeless, working poor, and impoverished for brunch at our church. In September, we welcomed victims of the Katrina disaster from New Orleans. Today was our chance to do something for the impoverished in the Knoxville community.

Some 200 volunteers assisted with meal preparation, building security and toy, coat, and food distribution. We provided each guest with a new or gently used winter coat, a toy, clothing, and a bag of food. They were treated to Christmas music from church ensembles, soloists, and area choirs.

We began dark and early. Some volunteers arrived before 7:00 a.m. We expected the first people to arrive at 8:00 a.m. When the guests trickled in, several volunteers pooled their thoughts and drove church vans to the rescue mission to tell others about the event. They modeled Jesus command, "Go out to the highways and compel them to come in."

People who are less fortunate than I are usually those who have been caught in life's traffic jam. So many people are one paycheck or two away from the homeless shetler as their temporary residence. Many of those people who came today were evidence of that. One grew up in our church and was now out of a job with no home of their own. Another was a preacher's kid who had a drug and alcohol addiction. There were plenty of heartbreaking stories to go around. But there were plenty of signs of God's peace and comfort as well. If our guests were caught in the roadblocks of life, today was like a rest area for them and us. We needed this moment for ourselves as much as they did. As one of our members said, "It was so good to look around and watch us be church."

There are plenty of times in the year when we are doing church individually. Sunday School classes, choirs, missions groups, individuals serve in tremendous ways around town. We have seen evidence of that throughout the year. On this day, it was good to be together working collectively, seeing each other doing good together. We saw wealthy 7th graders serving poor 3rd graders. We heard a poor musician serve a feast of music to a room full of needy people. Once again, I am reminded that in God's eyes, we are all the same. We need to work to help our eyes see things from God's perspective.

We had church today. No sermon will ever top this experience. May this be the first of many rest areas for 1B.

If you have a story from today that you would like to share or to continue the conversation about this incredible experience, simply post a comment to this Blog.

1 comment:

Jama Mosher said...

The Christmas season has only just begun, and already, I believe, I have experienced the highlight of my Christmas at our Christmas Brunch. I was so touched by Carol M's prayer, "Lord, we have so much to give. Please bring the people so that we can share with them." He did bring the people, using Richard and others to provide transportation. The music was glorious. The guests were so thankful.

One gentleman, named William, told me, "This is good luck and a blessing! It is cold out today, and I needed a coat. Besides, it is my birthday on December 22. This is my birthday party. I'll get a warm meal, a coat, some food, and some clothes for my birthday present!" His smile was radiant. Bless his heart, I made him endure a chorus of "Happy Birthday" sung slightly off key.

Another gentleman was entering the clothes shop at the end of the day. He had chosen a new suede jacket from the coat closet, and it still had the "Men's X-large" taped on the lapel. "May I pull this off for you?" I asked him. "Yes," he began, but as I pulled it off, he reconsidered. "I don't know. I might want to leave it on there so everyone will know that I have a new coat. I haven't had a new coat in years!" I did not throw away that piece of tape. Instead, I stuck it inside the jacket, saying, "Here. We'll put it inside your jacket so that you can show anyone you want that you have a new coat."

The delight of children at Christmas glowed from so many weary faces at our Christmas brunch. Thank you, God, and First Baptist Church, for allowing me to be a part of true Christianity.

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