I wanted to say that it started out like any other sunday, but that just is not true. Our children’s director and her family; as well as another helper; were on vacation and so Pastor Bob had to go across the street to run the childrens dept. A guest Pastor came in to deliver the sermon for the adults.
Things started out a bit rough. Pastor Bob had asked one of our congregants to officiate the service. He was supposed to welcome everybody including the visiting pastor, invite the congregation to come to the altar for opening prayer, then close the prayer time by praying out loud. Then he was supposed to ask everybody to stand for our time of praise and worship. I don’t know if it was because of a stroke he had that resulted in short term memory loss, or if it was because he was nervous, but things didn’t go as planned. He invited everyone to stand and worship straight off and said we would pray second. We have prayed first for a couple of years now and he is a faithful attender, not sure how he messed that one up. I suppose I should explain why we pray first. We are an inner city mission church, many who attend our church are not regular attenders and not living holy lives, we believe that in order to worship in spirit and truth there will most likely be some business with God that may need to be taken care of first. The altar is generally full at the opening prayer, confirming our belief that it needs to be done first. God is good and no matter how rocky our start I believe he was still working and we continued as planned.
The sermon was excellent, exactly as I had predicted. I love it when a preacher gets up and doesn’t hold back the truth that people need to hear, but then offers God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness to any who would ask it at the end. I myself was reminded of some things God wants me to work on. We ended the service and went downstairs for the meal that is provided every Sunday after the service. We put everyone in the vans and took them all home.
I was sitting on the stage near the podium in the coolness of the sanctuary waiting for my van to be done being used so that I could go home. I was contemplating the day and how things had gone. I was a bit discouraged by the fact that half of our normal congregation hadn’t been in attendance that day and was reminding myself of Galatians 6:9 “Do not grow weary in doing good”. My husband came bounding into the sanctuary, he is a naturally high energy guy and this is normal for him to do. Then I noticed the man who had followed him in. He was obviously homeless, he looked the stereotypical part, complete with cardboard sign he was wearing on his back that said. “61 year old Veteran. Will Work for food. I am a Christian. God bless you” There was more, but those are the words I recall at this moment. I admit I’ve been skeptical when I’ve seen these signs that say “I am a christian” and “God bless you”, I always figured them to be a ploy to get people to want to help them. The man put his bag down and handed my husband some money. I could not hear what they were saying. The man thanked my husband and said “God bless You” and he picked up his bag and left, sign still on his back.
Being the naturally curious person that I am I asked my husband “What was that all about” and what he told me blew me away. As I sit here I still hardly know how to react to it. He said “He wanted to know if he could give us his tithe.” I’m sure he said more but that’s what stands out, and those are the words pertinent to this story. This 61 year old christian veteran who is homeless had been hired by someone to do a job, paid cash, and having probably been blessed by the mission in some way, came here to pay his tithe.
I can’t help but think of a time before my husband was a pastor. He worked as a supervisor in the shop, I was a medical assistant. We were considered strongly middle class. We had a home and a mortgage, 2 car payments, a pool in the back yard, cable, the internet and many other toys of a middle class suburban family. We struggled in the area of tithing, there was always an excuse; “we won’t have enough for the bills” , or “I don’t need to give a full ten percent, the amount I’m giving is more than most people give”. I have since learned that tithing is not a matter of “following the rules” it is a matter of the heart. When you have an obedient heart it is not a burden to pay your tithe but one more way to please the one who died to give you eternal life. To thank the Father who blessed you with what you have in the first place. If this homeless man can tithe then what excuse can any of the rest of us have for not being obedient? God bless HIM for his obedience.