My best friend, Jesus, lives in a three-bedroom, ranch-style home, two doors down from where I live. For years, I’ve treasured his love and attention and selfless devotion to my personal situation and what he refers to as “getting closer to Papa.” We’ve shared many joyous times together, everything from a round of golf to feasting on his secret taco recipe.
Funny, but recently it occurred to me that I had never gone to church with him. I don’t even know where he goes to church on Sunday or if He even goes to church. He’s such a non-conformist. With Jesus, it sort of feels like it’s church all the time but not so formal or stuffy. I hope Jesus doesn’t know this but sometimes I get bored at church.
Jesus knows my every thought and Wednesday he stopped by my place. I was reading my Bible when he came in unannounced. He saw me reading my Bible and secretly I thought how he must admire me for being such a disciplined Christian. Don’t tell anyone but sometimes I think he’s kind of lucky to have me. Jesus passed over the opportunity to praise me and instead he said, “Hey, what are you doing this Sunday? Why don’t you come to church with me?” Sure, I thought and quickly accepted his invitation. I must admit that I was a little curious to know where he went to church. I asked Him where we would be going and he smiled and said, “Let’s make it a surprise.” Of course, this only heightened my curiosity, and I spent endless time between Wednesday and Sunday trying to determine which church he attended.
I was pretty sure, it would be the new and wildly popular mega church, Modern Grapevine, with its charismatic preacher and a Christian rock band that would send you to heaven. Each Sunday he preached a great, Bible based message that was never boring and very entertaining. The church had taken on all the advantages of modern technology and each Sunday they live-streamed the music and message to multiple sites around the state reaching thousands of people. Jesus is into numbers, at least I think he is, so surely this would be the chosen church.
Sunday arrived and Jesus pulled up, out front, in his Volkswagen Van. I always chuckle, because it looks like a retro, throwback to the hippy days of the late sixties. On more than one occasion, Jesus has told me, how much he enjoyed the 60’s when everyone was talking about love. Jesus was dressed in shorts and sandals and a Denver Broncos t-shirt. He’s definitely casual and I knew how well he would blend in at the mega church. The van lurched forward, and we were on our way.
I knew the route and as expected, we approached the mega church, Modern Grapevine. I expected the van to slow down as their parking attendants motioned us to turn in. Instead, Jesus sped up and flew by them with a big smile and a lively wave of the hand, as we passed. Now, I was a little confused and my whole theory was blown as to our destination. For the next hour we drove around town passing church after church. Jesus would slow down as we approached each church and inwardly I would think, “Ah, this is the one”. But at the last moment, he would hit the gas and we would fly by church after church. I was getting a little perturbed and it felt like he was toying with me.
Finally, we came to an area of town that is isolated and mostly industrial. There are a number of empty buildings, and the few residents are the poorest of the poor. We suddenly came to a stop under an overpass. I could hear the high-pitched noise of cars passing overhead and the occasional heavy roar of a semi-truck as it down shifted and backed off its thunderous exhaust pipes.
My vision was limited as it adjusted to the shadows of the surrounding environment. Jesus jumped out of the van, and we took off for a wooded area nearby. I began to see the outline of human figures among the trees and open spaces. They were mostly men but some women and children as well. I could see tent dwellings and cardboard shacks set up next to the nearby stream. There was trash everywhere and the smell wasn’t something you soon forgot.
I knew instantly that this was the area that homeless people often chose to live at. I’d seen it on TV when on several occasions as they attempted to clear out the camp and encourage them to move on. Each effort had failed, and they always returned. Everyone recognized Jesus and they came running with big smiles on their faces and shouts of greeting. Jesus greeted each person by their first name and a big hug. He always had a personal question regarding their life since the last time he’d seen them.
For the next hour, we walked around, and I mostly watched as Jesus cared for people. He would talk with them and tell them about heaven, he’d put his hand on their shoulder and pray for them. One guy had an old guitar with only five strings, and we sang a couple of hymns and Jesus was always stopping to play with the children. It’s funny how love brings out the best in people and you feel close to God.
A little confused, I asked Jesus what time the worship service began. He paused and turned slowly, looked me in the eye and said, “This is the worship service. Worship is when we put a smile on our Father’s face. I love all the churches and there are many ways to worship God. This just happens to be one of my favorites.”
We stayed there most of the day and as we prepared to go everyone walked to the van with us. The goodbyes took forever, and Jesus passed out bags of food that I didn’t remember seeing in the van when we drove over, earlier in the day. The ride home was quiet and neither of us said a word. But I knew, I had been to church.
jack turner……Romans 12:1