This week, my Sunday morning worship was in a different way than usual.
It was my first Sunday of not preaching in several months. This meant that I was free to worship with a congregation and not focus on a sermon.
We chose to worship in town where my youngest child is participating in some youth activities. After the Sunday school time was dismissed, I eventually found my way to be seated with my sweetheart, Lisa. Without trying, I overheard the pastor and a volunteer staff member discussing someone’s need. Apparently, a neighboring resident to the church property had asked this staff member for some help with his vehicle. The staff member wanted to help but knew he had some obligations at the very beginning of the worship service. Evidently, he had promised this unchurched neighbor that he would attempt to send someone else over for assistance. Since they had already glanced my way, I stood up and volunteered to head outside and help.
I thought, “well this is no big deal. I can help jump-start this truck and be back in service pretty quickly. I’m not a mechanic or the son of a mechanic, but I do have some ability. A dead battery causing an old truck to not want to start-up is definitely within the scope of services I can help with.” Almost immediately, though, the Holy Spirit let me know that this was about more than a faulty battery in an old pickup truck.
“Derrick” lived in a duplex styled apartment with his children, “Madison” (an 8-year-old girl) and “Joshua” (a little boy, possibly 5 years old), who were in obvious need of a mother’s attention. This young father wasn’t asking for anything, but I could tell that he needed a friend. While using jumper cables and adjusting battery cable connections, we talked. Early last year, he ended up divorced from the mother of his children. Just last week, his second wife decided to leave. My heart ached as I saw the pain on his face and I realized that my worship today was to simply be friendly to “the least of these.” I smiled and talked some with his cute little girl and told her about the Christmas play. Still, though, “Derrick” didn’t ask me for the first bit of help, outside of this temporary vehicle assistance.
To begin with, we could barely get enough connection for a “click, click, click.” We both made adjustments and tried hard. While he was inside the old truck, I began to pray for this situation. I prayed that God would help us get that old truck started. Soon, we heard life and knew there was hope. A partial turnover of the engine meant we were on the right track. Another adjustment to the cables was made, and I prayed some more. About a minute and a half later it happened. God brought power to that lifeless battery, and the old engine went to running.
I removed the cables and put them back up. Freakishly quick, though, “Derrick” was in my space and asked, “What’s your name again?” I replied, “William. And I’m not the pastor of this church, but I am a minister, and I’d like to have prayer with you before I leave. If that’s okay with you?” He nodded his head in agreement and stood stoically still. I stepped away to pull down the hood of the vehicle and came right back. With my right hand upon his left shoulder, I prayed for “Derrick” and his precious children. I asked God to meet their needs and show them His great love. I prayed for the failed relationships. I thanked God for Jesus, His Cross-death for our sins, and His resurrection for our new life. I simply asked God to help “Derrick” as he continued to put forth the effort to work and provide for his children.
After I washed my hands and straightened my suit, I sat back into the worship service. But, I couldn’t stop thinking about “Derrick” and his children. I wasn’t able to get fully plugged-in to the gist of my pastor friend’s Christmas sermon. When the invitation came, I prayed more for this young family and thanked God that today my worship was more excellent than it had been for several weeks. I came closer to living the sermon than preaching or hearing one.
I’m sure that some of this man’s troubles are his own fault, but I haven’t always made the best decisions either. When I needed a friendly face to show me compassion and forego judgmental tones, God has always provided the right kind-hearted person.
I hope that my actions, attitude, and prayers will be used by God to jump-start in “Derrick” the hope of a better life. Hope for a better life – that my friend is what Christmas worship is all about.
How was your Sunday? Did you get to connect with God and enjoy a great time of Christmas focused worship? Would you also pray with me for this young family?