I just crawled into bed, after what felt like the longest and most tiring weeks of my life. It was 7:30 on a friday night. It should have been my day off, but it was consumed with a committee meeting-- for which I was responsible for preparing and running. My sermon hadn't even been started, but I had grand plans for writing it in my pjs, with a cozy blanket and a cup of coffee. That's no way to spend a Saturday, or get a much needed day of rest, but at least I could work from the comfort of home, and maybe catch a nap and do some of the laundry that's piled up. It was a lovely, workable plan. And it held the wishes of a "traditional" 9 to 5 job at bay.
Of course, I've realized, that there is nothing 9-5 about being a pastor. Which is why I shouldn't have been surprised to get a call that one of my congregants was in the hospital...an hour and a half away. He had stopped breathing at dinner, was on life support, and they weren't sure what the future held. They needed Christ.
But I was so bone-tired exhuasted that I couldn't even see straight, and my first thought was "I'm running on fumes and no gas station in sight. I don't have anything to offer them, because I have nothing myself." I wept, being so overwhelmed and dried out. Yet we went and spent Saturday in the hospital with them. I got an email from one of the family members that night that said "Thank you, thank you, thank you for being with us. I was at my lowest, and didn't even know I needed you, but you were Christ to us."
I once heard a speaker say, "Don't be like Christ. Be Christ to the people you meet. Go where Christ goes, say what Christ says, and sit with the people Christ sits with. Because Christ lives in you, you are charged with being Christ to the world." That's a big responsibility. And sometimes it asks more of you than you believe you have to offer.
But here's what I saw again this weekend. Just when you're busy giving it your all to be Christ to someone who needs it most, someone will be Christ to you. It may come from a husband who holds you as you woke up crying because all of it was just too much right now. It may come from a congregant who looks at you and says, "I have been praying for you all week" or from a family who asks if they can take you and your husband out to lunch following Church. Maybe it comes from a church lady who says, "Tell me what I can do to help you out. You have a lot on your plate, and I don't want you to get sick because you don't have time to take care of yourself."
Sometimes you're busy being Christ to the world. And sometimes the world is busy being Christ to you. And in that way, Christ comes. Christ always comes to those who need him most.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.