Jesus at First Church (Traditional Service – 11:00 am)

by Rod Smith

Jesus walked in and sat between the Grumleys in the fifteenth row of First Church’s Traditional Service at 11am on Sunday morning. In all of his infinite wisdom he failed to realize the stir that would arise. An unfortunate snowball or wave effect began throughout the congregation as at least twelve families were displaced each by one seat. As people begrudgingly moved they tried to communicate a welcome to the stranger (so he would be sure to return) laced with enough censure to make sure he would be put in his place (or at least not in theirs) the next time he visited.

This uncharacteristic reshuffling (they hadn’t been moved in years) moved almost everyone in the congregation and skewed everyone’s view. The disruption extended the announcements sufficiently to annoy the choir who were waiting, fully robed, at the entrance to the sanctuary, hymnbooks in hand.

“I suppose of all people, I should have known better,” mused Jesus, all the while seeing the humor in Mr. Grumley’s polite, yet uncomfortable response when Jesus whispered his name to Grumley during the Passing of the Peace.

Grumley inched from side to side, a tad excited at the theological implications of this revelation. Not only did his surroundings take on a new look, he wanted to draw attention to the Guest. He wanted all the disrupted members know the inconvenience of having strangers in church was worth it. Alas, he glanced at the Order of Worship to see “Introduction of Visitors” was already over and the “Congregational Needs” were being announced. Besides, the choir was manifesting holy annoyance (the smiles, the gritting of teeth, the rolling of eyes in unison) while standing just outside the doors. Unaccustomed as they were to being “out of the loop,” word had already gotten to them (it was usually the other way around) via the deacons, that a stranger had entered the building and sat in Wally Grumley’s seat. The choir, who were usually first on everything, would be the very last to witness this unprecedented incident which had ruined for the fist time in 40 years their traditional procession.

“Tell them I am here,” Jesus said to Grumley. “Go on, stand up. Say I am here.”

“You mean actually interrupt ‘Congregational Needs’?” whispered Grumley with a faint but gentle “shush” in his voice in an attempt to keep Jesus quiet.

“I am terribly sorry but I am afraid we just do not do that here,” said Grumley in his best prayer voice.

“What if I am telling you to do so?” persisted Jesus. “After all, the pastor just said, that if two or three are gather in my name then I am in the midst of them? So, go on. Tell them he’s right and I am here.”

Wally Grumley peered around Jesus to his wife for assistance, “You do it Joy. You always said you would obey Jesus if he said something directly to you.”

“He is talking to you Wally,” said Joy. Her eyes were fixed on the pulpit proceedings, totally unimpressed with her husband’s freedom with strangers.

“Well actually, I am talking to you both.”

“You are interrupting my worship experience,” said Joy with an air of finality.

“I have come here to meet with God if you don’t mind,” she said, hoping for it to be the last word on the subject.

“I am God. And, I am… err, here to be met.”

“Well, God just wouldn’t do it like this,” said Joy Grumley, her teeth clenched, “God just wouldn’t just barge into OUR church and…. and….” She was lost for words.

“Do you believe I am here?” quizzed Jesus.

“Well of course I believe you are here,” replied Wally.

“Then go ahead and tell them I am here.”

Joy tilted her head a hairbreadth: “Will you stop talking during the service, even if it is to Jesus! If you don’t I am going to a quieter spot where I can enter the spirit of worship without interruption.”

“’Church Hospitality’ – will be the title of my message today,” boomed the pastor, unaware of the stir in the congregation, “and I will be challenging you to treat any stranger as you would treat Jesus.”

Wally and Jesus burst into uproarious laughter. They embraced, moved into the center aisle, circled each other holding hands with outstretched arms, giggled loudly, and danced.

“And now the choir,” announced the pastor, “will lead us in our opening hymn, ‘Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus,'” as the deacons ushered the disruptive couple out the door.

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