We arrived safely at my father’s home in The Villages of Florida.  This is the land of golf carts, NRA, silver hair and “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown.”  I don’t want to say that the neighborhoods are conservative, but the women think Glenn Beck is a hottie.  As do the men.

Needless to say, guest passes clearly visible notwithstanding, The Mamma was not to be missed at church this morning.  In fact, I knew the woman who the usher slated me to sit next to at church was clearly aggravated before I ever made it to the pew.  Her old body snapped to rigid attention like a green recruit in a basic training formation.  She stroked her huge, paisley hand bag that sat next to her on the bench like a spoiled cat sprawled out under the sun.  It was wider than my back side.  Naturally, I thought she intended to move it so that I could sit.  That was not her intension.  She fluffed up her precious tote to mark the barrier between us.  I had to rotate my hips, cross my legs and sit slightly sideways to fit into the small slice of pew left for me.  She partnered her purse’s prominent position with an angry pout in my direction.  Her eyes dared me to say something.

She needn’t have worried.  I wasn’t there to make friends or stake territory.  I was there to check in with my Glorious Father and bathe a few moments in His ever present, agape love.  I wanted Him to know that I sought His Light and Protection, and no lady with a big bag and bad attitude was going to distract me from my Jesus.  My Father was there to receive me, of course.  He has placed me where I am and knew I needed a little extra sweet drink from His well of life.  I abided in His presence and was grateful for my sliver of pew.

The woman’s behavior resonated with me on many levels.  First, I confess I found it humorous that she would act in a way that could so easily be perceived as inhospitable at church.  Though I took no offense, I certainly did notice her behavior.  Whereas I chalked it up to a frustrated person who had gotten there on time, and didn’t want the inconvenience of having to slide in, I am aware that there was a time that I would have been not only offended, but also angry.  I am grateful to have been gifted traction in this area as God has begun His work on my heart.  I am also mindful of what an impact we might have on each other as we interact with strangers and guests at church.  As a guest in this church, I was not made to feel welcome by the woman who sat next to me.  In fact, quite the opposite was true.  Had I sought welcome, or the warmth of human kindness, I would not have found it in the corner of the pew I’d been assigned.  I wonder how the same experience would have been for another guest.  I was there for a quiet chat with my Father, but what would have been my take away if I had also sought a smile, nod or moment of community communion?

One of the moments of highest emotion in a Catholic mass is the moment of transsubstantiation.  It is in this instant that Catholics believe that the emblems of host and wine miracously transform into the literal flesh and blood of Christ.  As such, the Holy Eucharist is among the most sacred of Catholic emblems.  In preparation for communion, the congregation says the following prayer.  It is as much a part of my childhood memories as perogie.  Though not Catholic anymore, I still am undone by the words of this prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”

Certainly, I am not worthy to receive the scandalous Grace of Christ.  Before I ever believed  in His mercy, I knew this.  However, being back in a Catholic church along side of a territorial parrishoner who couldn’t even be bothered to move her purse so that a guest could sit down to join her congregation’s worship, I have to wonder how differently we would operate in our church families if we truly understood how many opportunities we have to love each other in His name.

I love that woman and her purse.  She didn’t want to be bothered with me, and that is all good.  I kept my space and enjoyed her soulful singing and sincerity.

It is well we know we are not worthy to receive Him.  It makes His gift to us all the more precious.

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah