I was on a recent road trip and stopped at a great little church off the beaten path. It was when I learned how a little church might become a great sanctuary.
The pastor preached from the Gospel reading for Epiphany 8A:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?. . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (
At the end of the sermon, the pastor had us take up cards placed on each seat with a small pencil. We were to write down something giving us anxiety in our lives: stress at work, money issues, family situations. Then, we were asked to exchange cards with the person sitting next to us, and then exchange it again, and then move across aisles until we'd exchanged cards six or seven times.
The pastor asked us to pray for the person's anxiety represented on the card we ended up with. As we were called forward to take the Eucharist, we were to place the card in a pile on the altar in the front. To leave the anxiety behind as we left with the symbol of God's grace in us.
Here is what made the person anxious and even scared as it was expressed in writing upon the card that I had in my hands:
To be deported.
Let these brief statements written by a stranger's hand sitting near me in church less than three Sundays ago, sink in.
Lord, have mercy on us.
May those of us called Christian enter true sanctuaries next Sunday, and welcome friends and strangers alike to join us as brothers and sisters.