I received this story in an email yesterday. www.snopes.com cannot confirm or deny the truth of it. Snopes has not been able to track down any source for this account, but they do list another, similar story that is known to be true. Whether or not this really happened, it should raise in our mind the question of how welcome outsiders are in our congregations. How welcoming are you?
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek let his beard grow for a few days, dressed shabbily like a homeless person, and then went to the 10,000 member church where he was to be introduced that morning as the new senior pastor. Still a stranger to everyone there, he walked around for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for the service. Only 3 people out of the thousands there said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food. No one in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks.
He sat in the back of the church and listened to the church announcements. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. They said, “We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation. The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped and all eyes were on him. He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment. Then he recited these words from Matthew 25:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many heads were bowed in shame. He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will you decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed service until next week. Being a Christian is more than something you claim. It’s something you live by and share with others.
Luke 6:36-37 — (Jesus said), “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Matthew 7:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
Matthew 25:45 — “The Master will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm on your face,
The rain fall softly on your fields;
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
–Gaelic blessing (Ireland)