In the morning worship today I preached a sermon titled "Far be it from me" from Joshua 24:14-18. It's the passage in which Joshua said "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Not, we'll believe in the Lord or we'll worship the Lord or we'll serve the church, but we will serve the Lord. And I talked about how serving the Lord meant serving the least of our brothers and sisters, helping those who are unable to help themselves for whatever reason. I was very happy that my friend Eva G had come to visit our church and was going to stay for the second service.
Normally I preach pretty much the same thing at both services. I may adjust the sermon for the particular congregation attending the afternoon service, mostly folks who for one reason or another felt rejected by Church at some point in their lives. Today I was fairly confident that the sermon could stand as it was and I was all ready to start the afternoon service when Something Happened.
A couple came to the door looking for help - food or bus fare or anything we could do for them. This happens pretty often in our neighborhood, so I invited them to come sit in the air conditioning and rest. I told them to help themselves to the goodies that one of our members had brought in for the Fellowship Hour between the two services. And I asked where they were coming from or going to. The young man said "I just want to find someplace for her to rest. She's pregnant and she needs to rest." So I got out my trusty iPhone and texted all the people who sometimes show up for the afternoon worship service. "Do we know anyone who can help a homeless pregnant woman? Even just for 1 night?"
Within a minute at most I had received 2 phone calls and 3 text messages. I called the numbers these folks recommended and answered several more phone calls and text messages. Within an hour we had found shelter for the young woman and her fiance for the next several days.
I never did preach that sermon in the afternoon service. In fact, we didn't do most of the things we normally do in worship. We did sing a little, and we prayed together. But mostly we served God's children to the best of our ability. We fed the hungry and sheltered the homeless. Instead of hearing a sermon we lived one, following the instructions Francis of Assisi is supposed to have given other monks. "Preach always. If necessary, use words."
(The sermon "Far be it from me" is posted on this blog)