Sunday evenings David and I lead a class. We are a life group really. Every week we come together to learn, support and pray for one another. We originally set up to be a class, open to anyone and everyone, a place for those who haven’t found a life group yet, or those whose unpredictable schedule kept them from committing to a life group. We are am open class but there is a group of us who are there every week, for each other. We are a life group.
So in our life group we have had the opportunity to pray for a man and his wife as they are facing an overwhelming, life threatening cancer diagnosis. Each week Bruce would ask us to remember them in our prayers and give us what updates he had on her. Each week we asked if there was anything we could do for the family, Bruce would reply, “no, just pray”.
A couple of weeks ago, Bruce asked me if Pastor Barry and I would go to their home and pray with the husband and wife. He said she wanted to go to church but couldn’t so Bruce decided we could bring the church to her! Now that is Radical Hospitality! When I said yes, I had no way of knowing that it would be one of the most powerful, most connected to Christ, most beautiful and overwhelming experiences of my life……
We met at the church office and when I arrived Barry asked what I thought about taking communion elements to the husband and wife. We didn’t have communion elements at the office. So we decided to just go ahead without it. As we started on the road, Barry asked Bruce to go to the store, he really felt like we needed communion elements. Barry comes out with a full loaf of un-sliced bread and small cans of grape juice. Unconventional but, communion elements.
Bruce told us we were heading about 30 minutes away to the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. As we drove he told us more about where we were heading. We were heading to pray with a family who are hard working, good people, who don’t have much. He said when we arrived there would be a whole lot of dogs and chickens running around and we would know that we were in “the country”.
It was as he said. The dogs made me nervous and the house was stuffed full of stuff. It was a small house, well worn and sagging. We came in and found the wife waiting for us on a small , ragged,sofa. We chatted with her and her husband, and to hear her speak, with such faith, so completely positive, you would think she is just minimally ill; though her husband had told us all the details of the very large, very painful, incapacitating tumor before we came inside the house. As we talked I couldn’t help but be awed by the obvious love, care and concern that passed between husband and wife. He cared for her so well and so completely and she looked to him for security and with adoration. As I sat in the house that showed signs of financial lacking by society standards I was struck by the thought that I talk with husbands and wives who live in beautiful homes with nice cars and show signs of financial security, who can’t even stand to look at each other and here they were in this house falling down, completely devoted to each other. That’s real, true, love and I don’t think they are the ones who are lacking…
And then Barry asked if she wanted to take communion with us. To which she smiled so sweetly and explained that she has not ever been to church and had no idea what he was talking about. I was shocked, here we are in the Bible belt, and even though I only went to church a few times growing up, I have always known about communion, I thought everyone in the Bible belt did.
Barry explained communion, explained that Christ died, broke His body, shed His blood for each of us. As he explained communion to her, someone who has never heard, I felt in my soul, deep in my heart what he was saying. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time right along with her. After she heard, she wanted to take communion. And there, in this small room, with its furniture falling apart, floor falling in, dust and cobwebs gathering, we all took communion, from our loaf of bread and grape juice cans. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life. I don’t know that I have ever felt closer to Jesus. I believe that is where He is, where He wants us to be. With the least of these. He doesn’t require fancy communion cups and perfectly prepared wafers or bread. He is with us, in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of everywhere.
It is amazing to me how God chooses to reveal Himself to us. On an ordinary day, I thought I was going to go pray for someone who is suffering with a large cancerous tumor. Instead I found she is not suffering, she chooses faith and peace from a God who supplies her those things even though she hasn’t been to church. I found power and grace and mercy through the most unconventional communion elements, and I found Christ, right where He said He would be, with the least of these.
As the Believe Pastor, I have to point out that this Radical Hospitality occurred through the context of community. Without the Life Group community, Bruce wouldn’t have been asking for prayer for this couple and wouldn’t have asked Barry and I to go to them to pray. Because of community, I have experienced Jesus in a whole new way. Because of community I was able to witness a couple who had everything in the middle of nothing. Because of community, I got to meet a lady I would have never had the opportunity to ever meet. Because of community, I got to be with her as she experienced communion for the very first time. Because of community Bruce, Barry, husband, wife and I were able to gather together in a run down home and meet with Jesus. Why community? Radical Hospitality….