18 November 2013

New Pastor Proves his Congregation: A Contemporary Parable

This is one of those stories we all need to hear from time to time. It has the power to shine a light into our own hearts and communities and call us to something more. Among other things it asks us what, after all, is the difference in being a Church of disciples and an elite club which meets on Sundays? The story was published in TruthSeekerDaily.com. (Please see note at bottom of story.)

[[Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning. He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people 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, with people looking down on him and judging him. As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.

When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation. “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 with all eyes 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,

“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 began to cry and 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. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ should be more than just talk. It ought to be a lifestyle that others around you can love about you and share in.

N.B: Someone sent me an email today (11/19) suggesting the story was a hoax and it well may be. (The picture is certainly not of anyone named Jeremiah Steepek; that has been established.) I continue however to think it is believable and significant  in the ways parables are always believable and significant  -- even if Pastor Steepek and this specific congregation are fictional. Especially I think this is a good example of an "enacted parable" which can help us hear and challenge us directly to decide for or against dimensions of the Gospel reading we will be proclaiming on Friday. All too often our congregations mistake respectability for the holiness we are truly being called to. All too often our churches are merely outposts of our culture and its values instead of radically countercultural instances of the Kingdom of God.  It would, I think, be a shame to dismiss this story simply because it is a contemporary parable and not literally true.