Thursday, February 20, 2003

There's a guy in the church that meets in our house who has a nifty knack to reach out to people who are down and out. He has a way of making friends with those who are kind of out there on the fringe. What's more, is that he brings them to our gathering.

"Jason is bringing his friend, Burt, tonight" my wife noted at some point on Sunday.

I wonder what he's studying in school?

"He's gone to go pick up Burt" my bride of 10 years remarked as I stared quizzically at Jason's guitar case now laying in the floor.

I bet he's a freshman or a sophomore, since he has no car.

"Glenn, this is Burt."

I was now beholding a 44 year-old man, staggering into our living room, brazenly attempting his slurred introduction through snaggled and missing teeth. His teetering reminded me that perhaps he was struck with palsy. Or maybe years of alcohol. He appearance betrayed his age by ten years easy.

We fellowshiped with this stranger sitting contentedly at our table. So Jason and I went into the kitchen with Burt. Our church never eats at the table. We are happy to circle up on the floor or couch and spill tea and watch my German Shepherd snatch up morsels from the carpet with lightning-fast precision. "Respectable people don't do that" Burt admonished us.

Over our pizza Burt pokes fun at Jason and we all laugh. I recognize a connection between a lonesome 44 year-old drunk and a disciple of Christ cleverly disguised as a college student. I watched with fascination and entertainment as Burt told of how Jason always came to pick him up and take him to work (when in actuality Jason's only done this once). But by now we've been told by Burt of how his family's all passed away and Jason is a good friend.

Burt quietly made his way into my recliner as we moved into our teaching time. We were looking at Matthew 5 where Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. Our discussion goes on for 20 minutes and finally Burt interjects with a voice louder than necessary for a room with people only feet away from each other.

"You know- you all don't know me from Adam. I hope you don't mind if I speak right now. I could be a robber and could come back and rob you all. But you let me into your home and let me eat with you. And Jason's been a friend." Burt cracks on Jason again and we all laugh- again.

Then Burt calls me a knothead. You see, thanks to my wife, even total strangers are told of how I pegged my nugget on the corner of the entertainment center when trying to get my TVator to work with my laptop. I guess the pump-knot was unmistakable. So I sit on the floor and take my medicine while more laughter erupts.

Then Burt asks me a question that I shall never forget as long as I live.

Through a face squinched with incredulity came: "Why did you let me come in with you and eat? Answer that for me teacher-man" (or something to that effect).

Was this a set up?

But I looked at his eyes and his mouth agape......he was wanting an answer. I knew what this was about now. I swallowed hard as I gathered an answer. The air was rife with fertile reality of the Kingdom of God.

This was no teachable moment for Burt. He had already gone through the Spirit's lesson that night. Ironically, what God wanted us to know came in the form of a question from a drunk. Sure, I gave an answer about this was what Jesus' people are really all about......accepting, inviting, regardless of who we are or where we've been......but I think mostly to see if I believed it or not.

Jesus taught from my recliner Sunday night. The rest of the night I just plucked blackberries.