ISSUE 185 WWW.AUSTINSEMINARY.TYPEPAD.PORTAL/KAIROS.HTML
years old, Caucasian, and clean cut. He was readinga book, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, ahistorical novel about the Civil War battle atGettysburg. We struck up a casual conversation andI sat down. I grew up an hour south of Gettysburg,so I told him about visiting that battleﬁeld, as well asAntietam, my personal favorite (if there can be afavorite for such things).
The conversation turned to his situation, andhis alcoholism. Jesus said that he has tried rehab. Hehas tried religion (especially the fundamentalistkind, he emphasized). He’s good when he’s sober,he said. He’s employable, and life is good. But hecannot stay away from the drink; once he drinks, hesoon ﬁnds himself back on the street. Someone atthe Salvation Army promised to get him into rehabagain... as soon as Jesus decides he’s ready to do it. Itis not, for Jesus, an easy decision. I noticed a slighttremor as he spoke. I almost cried. I sat there andlooked into his eyes. I wanted him to know that Isaw him, that I knew his name, and that I loved him.I wanted him to know that he was welcome to behere. Indeed, I was glad that he was here.
As I told my friend about my encounter with Jesus, I said that at Open Doors we’re called to feed,to clothe, and to be present with our brothers andsisters in their need. I said we’re not called to judgethem or to change them. I didn’t say that this feltinadequate to me, but it did, and does. My friendquestioned me on this, and asked, “What do youmean, that you’re not called to change them? Whydidn’t you tell him about the Gospel?” Here mytongue failed, or perhaps my heart; I don’t know. Istumbled through some words. I don’t reallyremember them, and don’t want to.
What I wish I would have said to my friendwas something like this. That I don’t really knowwhat it means to tell someone “about the Gospel.”Here I am, after three years of seminary, and I’m at aloss for what it means to tell someone “about theGospel.” But, on Saturday morning, anyone whodesires to enter our Open Doors is welcome.Substance abusers, cross-dressers, pregnant women,the dirty, smelly, plain ol’ down on their luck types,the mentally ill, and families with small children...we get them all, and all are welcome to come andpartake of the food we offer, and the place of restavailable, and the clothing that is theirs to take withthem. We are blessed by them, and the greatprivilege God has given us to serve them.
There are times a slow tongue is a virtue. Aslow tongue can keep one’s words from hurtinganother. Hurtful words spoken cannot be recalled.But there’s a time to turn the question, too. TheGood News is not present solely in the proclamation.Or perhaps the Gospel is proclaimed not solely bywords.
I’ll think about Jesus this week, and ourconversation about the Civil War and his alcoholism.I’d like to see him again, to deepen our relationship.But part of me hopes he doesn’t come back, that hissituation is improved and he no longer needs ourfood. He’s in my prayers this week.
Jesus, of course, was not his real name, but,then again, it is.