I didn’t catch Dennis’ last name. And he didn’t even ask mine.
Even so, there Dennis was, on duty, at 7:40 AM…to open up and welcome me (plus about 35 other strangers) into the Fellowship Hall of the Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chester yesterday.
We found ourselves temporarily homeless, my Kairos Prison Ministry brothers and me, when the funeral of a beloved community member trumped our tenuous claim on meeting space at the United Methodist Church just down the street.
It’s a fairly common grace, I’ve noticed – benefiting from the kindness of strangers whenever we assemble our Kairos teams. In fact, Dennis brushed off the suggestion that we owed him (and his community} any gratitude for taking us in. “What else is ‘church’ for?” he asked, as he propped open the door.
In a sense, he’s got it exactly right: We are one in Christ…so it’s only natural that we’d offer to help each other when we have the means and opportunity to do so. Still, I found my heart blessed by Dennis and his simple act of generosity, very early on a wet and windy Saturday morning.
I shook hands with Dennis. But I wound up hearing St. Paul:
“So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us…”
This is a marvelous thing to encounter, in the basement of a venerable church building. A beautiful relationship, blooming…tilled in the soil of unmerited hospitality:
“Whoever is ‘in Christ’ is a new creation – the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
It’s possible to miss the grace in such moments. It’s possible to overlook its ultimate source:
“All this is from God, who has reconciled us to God’s self, through Christ…”
‘From God.’ This grace…every grace…comes from God. Routinely amazing, every blessing that fills our lives.
And it’s one of the things I love about the Kairos ministry – because it requires us to beg for the kindness of strangers. We ask for prayers, for money, for hospitality; we ask for cookies – each and every time we go into the prison. We keep begging, in part so that we never get seduced by the notion that it’s the team members who are doing this work inside Menard.
We beggars are given the grace to understand that all this is from God. And when the Christian community responds, we beggars can only watch in wonder as God’s bounty pours forth before our very eyes:
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.