The Greatest of These is Love

Susan peeks out the window of the church office, pulling the venetian blinds back just enough to view the broken down station wagon piled high with blankets and listing to the right on tired tires. Children tumble out onto the tarmac, a man unfolds from the front seat, scruffy beard, dirty plaid shirt, the woman impossibly huge in pregnancy. Susan, the perennially tidy church secretary, crinkles her nose at the imagined stink as she picks up the phone and dials then whispers, “Pastor, there are people here. They’re filthy and it looks like they’ve been living in a station wagon. I’m sure they want a handout of some kind…”

The pastor’s voice is quiet, “I’m five minutes away. Please, just wait.”

He arrives in a well maintained, 1985 Honda Accord. It takes him a moment to straighten from the car. He’s nearly 80 years-old and his hair is snow white but his blue eyes are bright. He sees Susan peeking through the blinds and waves as he moves to greet the rag tag family parked across the lot.

The Pastor listens while the man talks. He learns of a lost job. The old station wagon is running on fumes, they need a place to rest… The man can’t even meet his eyes as he states his case. Pastor sees the crumbled cigarette packages, a beer bottle stuffed between the front seats. The man’s breath reeks. The children are big eyed and silent, their noses runny. He nods his head, steps back, and opens his arms wide, inviting them to come inside the church.

In the church kitchen he cooks for them, and invites them to use the facilities to clean-up. The secretary is frantic as she whispers, “You don’t know anything about them, Pastor. You can’t keep bringing homeless people, vagrants, into the church building! We just remodeled. The last man you brought in stole from us. Do you want that to happen again? You have a responsibility to your congregation!”

The Pastor smiles as he flips grilled cheese sandwiches in a pan, “I hope the last man was blessed by what he found here. Everything we have belongs to God, Susan. He took nothing from us. “

“But your responsibility to the congregation…” Her voice is full of frustration and indignation. Her arms firmly planted on her hips.

Sliding the sandwiches onto a serving plate, he turns to her and his voice is firm, “My responsibility is to our God who calls us to love.”

Later, when the church board reprimands the Pastor for putting church property at risk, for inviting vagrants in, he will remind them once again that the building and everything inside of it belong only to God, and that the mission of the church is not the protection of church property but the loving of people.

None of them will ever know the impact the Pastor’s kindness had on that family, but that father and mother will raise children who love God and they will do much good. Years later, when they tell their story in the homeless shelter run by their church, the father and mother will speak of the Pastor who loved them not with empty words but with hot showers and grilled cheese sandwiches when they were destitute and desperate. And they will ask those they serve to pass-on whatever kindness they have received and to do so in the name of God.

©Just Kate, 2010

Matthew 25:38-40 (New International Version)

38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'



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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.

    Music

    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin