Having just taken on the pastorate for two congregations, I have been busy trying to acquaint myself with two very different congregations. One of the important tasks, of course, is to visit the shut-ins, who would like to meet their new pastor but are unable to come to church to do it. I diligently began this last week, visiting a handful of people in assisted living homes in the greater Rochester area.
One of my first was to a man about whom I knew nothing but his name, Larry. As I walked into the large building, confidently sporting my clerical collar, a man was walking out. He was wearing old jeans and ragged green sweatshirt, and the man, who looked to be about in his 60s, looked as if he had walked some tough roads. “Are you preachin’?” he asked, his speech slightly slurred. I said no, not today, I was bringing communion to someone. He asked if I was from the church down the street, and I explained that I was from a Lutheran church in another suburb. “Lutheran!” he said. “I grew up Lutheran! Baptized, confirmed, and went to church every Sunday and Wednesday!” We chatted about that for a while, before he grew tired of the conversation and went on his way. But as I went in and met Larry, the man came back. “I have to tell you something!” he said, with urgency. “When you lock your car, when it’s in your garage and you lock your doors, you’re locking Jesus out of your life.” No sure how to respond to this, I muttered, “Oh…” and thanked him for offering me this advice. We parted ways once again.
As Larry and I found seats in a common area, and I began to get to know him, I also began to wonder what this place was. I had expected senior living, but everyone I saw looked middle-aged or younger, and each one seemed to carry a burden of some sort. Larry was pleasant enough, but slurred his speech, and couldn’t seem to finish the same sentence he started. I wondered if this was a rehab center, or perhaps a home for mentally ill adults. (I later learned it was the latter.) Whatever the case, these were adults who were not readily accepted by the general population. They were the outcasts, the people you avoid on the street, the folks with whom you avoid making eye contact. Being there in the midst of them, my heart felt a deep need to love them.
Continue Reading »