If you go visiting, how can you tell if the service will be high church or low church? If you come late to a low church service you will have to take a seat in the back. If you come late to a high church service they make you walk by everyone to get stared at and sit down front.
Of course, everyone knows the reality is most churches have assigned seating.
“Don’t you dare sit in Ms. Hurt’s seat! She has been sitting in that seat for fifty years.”
Funny, I don’t recall squashing her… Way to make a visitor feel welcome! No, sarcasm is never a good idea.
Now, my wife wouldn’t move no matter what. She would grit her teeth and whisper, “No. Please, Jesus. Don’t make me get up in front of all these people…”
But then this story isn’t about seating arrangements. And it isn’t about feeding people either. This is not a story in favor of the poor and hungry. No it isn’t. I’m telling you it isn’t.
It is about us, and specifically the attitude of our hearts, and about how we can tell if someone is getting in tune with God or playing the discords of this world. Like so much Jesus talked about, it is God examining us from the inside-out. The outward examples are only to get at the inward reality.
My son, God bless him, has nothing. He wants nothing. He does have some thousand friends on Facebook, but he lives in a house with a bunch of other people as homeless and destitute as he is. And he gets up at least once a week to go and serve in the local soup kitchen. It is the life he has chosen. He shares Jesus with the people who have nothing. And all I can think is I hope when you serve at the soup kitchen you get something to eat yourself. I worry about him.
Anyway, what about the rest of us?
I know a man who worked hard all his life and has never been what the world would call successful. He and his wife just get by, but now at fifty-something she is going out, having her nails done regularly, shopping in the best places, treating herself to eating out with friends in fancy restaurants. They can’t afford it, but her attitude is, “I deserve it, it is just up to him to provide. It’s not my fault he is a lousy provider.”
I know a young man who is the worst suck-up I have ever seen. In fact, his expressed attitude is “When I get to the top I’ll throw a party for all the little people I stepped on to get there.”
Okay, these are extreme examples, but really, what is important to us? What do we really care about? What do we want? Do we want respect, to be known by the great people, the “movers and shakers,” to be seen in the right company? Do we want to be counted among the rich and successful, to be able to get things done our way, to have a reputation in town? Or do we want the things of God? Of course we want the things of life—the good life, fools that we are. God judges (yes, judges) with a different standard. It is how we ought to judge as well.
Hopefully, though, we are not as bad as the man I know, husband of the church organist no less, who won’t do anything for the church unless he gets his picture in the paper. I told him to sit in Ms Hurt’s seat. I couldn’t guarantee what condition he might be in but I was fairly sure he would get his picture in the paper.