I rejoiced with those who said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord."
We humans are most certainly creatures of habit. Whether we are gathered at our dining tables, weekly business meetings, and, yes, even at church, we tend to sit in the same place. And, when we find our comfort zone, we don't want anyone interfering with our space.
Pastor Wallace tells of a time when a neighboring Methodist Church burns to the ground. A new one is erected on the same site, and Wallace is invited to speak at the dedication. He can't help but notice an elderly lady standing at the back of the church, counting the pews before she nods satisfactorily and strides up the aisle to the fourth pew on the right.
When he is greeting the members of the congregation at the end of the service, he can't help but ask the woman why she was counting pews.
"My family has always sat in the fourth pew from the back," she states in a no-nonsense tone.
"But," Wallace protests, "this isn't even the same church!"
"No matter," she says, "it's my pew and that's that!"
Wow! I would not want to be the hapless visitor who dared to plunk herself down in that lady's spot!
Sadly, in another church, Wallace tells us, one woman makes that very mistake . . .
She is sitting by herself in the second pew, perusing the bulletin.
"Excuse me!" The voice is harsh, authoritarian.
The woman turns to meet the haughty gaze of a dowager with a passel of children and grandchildren in tow.
"You'll have to move. This is our pew!"
Maintaining her composure, the woman gathers up her purse and Bible, and departs without a word.
As it turns out, she is the wife of the visiting pastor. The man this church is seriously considering for a permanent position.
A position this pastor will, based on this incident, turn down.
And, I'm left to ponder . . . How many visitors in how many churches have been treated this way? Ousted instead of welcomed? All because a pew is more important than a person?
Instead, shouldn't we be rejoicing with this newcomer who decided to enter the house of the Lord? Gladly, make room for them? Greet them as we would like to be greeted?
For, how will a seeker come to know the Lord Jesus and His great love for them if we don't demonstrate that love first?
How will you greet and treat a visitor at your church next Sunday?
Will you join me in prayer?
Grant us, Father, the grace to love others as Jesus taught us. May we welcome the visitors always, making room for them on our pew, making room for them in our church family. Amen.