After moving into a new house, I’ve been feeling a need to try out a new church.
Strangely – I say strangely because I’ve never been one to feel entirely at home at a mainline Protestant church – I’ve been feeling a call, an urging let’s say, toward the Lutheran church.
It could be because I’ve been reading the strong messages of Lutheran pastors lately. Or perhaps because I’ve come to know many faithful, out-of-the box Lutherans recently, including one retired Lutheran pastor with ALS who I’ve become permanently endeared to.
But despite my quarrels with church and church culture, which are entirely my own and not necessarily a reflection of a particular church or denomination, I have found myself migrating – curious even – to attend Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Victoria.
The Rev. John Waak has long been a favorite of mine in the city.
His messages are well thought out, balanced and theologically and historically sound.
He’s also always been supportive of me, often without prompting or any benefit on his end.
And there has always been something comforting about the members there, who seem to be dedicated to welcoming everyone in, no matter someone’s social station, no matter their inner quarrels with church culture.
At least that’s how I’ve always perceived it.
So I started attending a few weeks ago, and have since enjoyed it very much.
The other Sunday, as I sat in the back row of church – yes, I’m a back pew sitter – I noticed a woman on the opposite end of my pew.
She and I were the only ones on the long bench. I, at one end, she at the other.
And as worship commenced, we cast the occasional smile at the other, as if to say, “I see you there. Hi, and good morning.”
During Waak’s sermon, a small child, probably about 2 years old, escaped from his parents.
He was the cutest thing, walking along the back of the sanctuary, testing the boundaries of how far away he could walk from his father until he was summoned back.
Though the little boy distracted me from the message in the pulpit, I couldn’t help quietly smiling to myself, enjoying the playful antics of innocence and exploration behind me.
The lady at the end of the church pew was equally entertained, and our giggles grew louder as the little boy came around to either side of the pew, stopping suddenly and turning back when he realized we were not familiar.
I longed for the little boy’s innocence, realizing how stainless his eyes and heart were.
It would be something special to still be able to see the world that way, I thought.
After a while, the little boy returned to his father.
My eyes returned to the pastor, and the lady at the end of the church pew and I shared a final smile before refocusing on Waak’s message.
Later, when I walked to my car, feeling uplifted and filled, I spotted the pew lady again across the parking lot.
Only this time, she was pulling a chair out from behind a wooden fence to take a seat with a man in front of the dumpster.
I wasn’t certain, but she appeared to be homeless. They both did.
And I learned later, I was right.
I felt duped in the best sort of way.
I thought about the laughter we shared on the church pew. I thought about her modest, somewhat dingy clothes, and how I hadn’t noticed them before.
Then, I thought about the little boy and his inability to understand rich or poor.
I thought about Jesus and his messages of grace and love for those who come last.
I thought about innocence, and how I wished I saw everyone like that little boy will for the next few precious years of his life – the way
I saw the homeless woman in church that morning.
There was no separation or divide. We were just two single ladies on a church pew, laughing at little boy’s innocence and listening to a message from the pulpit.
It was a little bit of innocence.
A few fleeting moments of Jesus’ eyes.
Jennifer Preyss is the faith editor for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535, jenniferpreyss.com, or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.