Let me post preface by stating I’m not buying the “guy in the sky” with harps and pearly gates, but now that I’m actually paying attention when in a house of the holy, I am beginning to understand. Last night’s 5:00 gathering was a good one, mostly because of the wonderful voice of the elder directly behind me in Pew 43, Seat 6. Actually, I only envisioned the old man, but looked forward to the “Peace be with you” moment when I could tell him I enjoyed his tenor.

The gospel was a long-un, but reading along, it told the story of a wealthy man with two sons, one of whom jumped the nest with his early inheritance to blow on basically, hookers and um, blow. Anyway, after junior hits bottom, he heads home and is lovingly welcomed by his father, much to the annoyance of the brother. In spite of what the son had done, the father welcomed him back with unconditional love. Without knowing “the rest of the story,” we can speculate whether the father’s act was prudent or just one of enablement with a bad ending… Whatever. It gave me some perspective on something personal to me.

The homily was titled, “Christianity is for losers.” As Father Tim talked about loss, I looked around the church and took in the faithful. It was mostly a blue-collar crowd and I realized Joyce and I were probably among the most fortunate in the room. I thought about how many struggle with paying bills, battling illness, or wrestling more elusive emotional or spiritual demons. The sermon described a black man about to be lynched by a white mob of his neighbors. The local pastor halted the proceedings to read the man’s will. He left all his possessions to those under the sheets for the acts of kindness they had shown him through life. They all left quietly in shocked silence from the love they’d been shown.

Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed… To me, they are examples of how to live, not gods. In the category of “what would Jesus do,” I think if he saw the fuss made over him in the last 2,000 years or so, he’d be embarrassed. To me, if going to church can help people be humble, kind or loving to each other even a fraction more than they were before, that’s a huge benefit. A “force” if you will.

I couldn’t wait for the “let us offer each other the sign of peace.” Well, for one I got a kiss, but at that moment I wanted to tell the old gentleman behind me how much I’d enjoyed his singing. When I turned, the old man was gone. In his place was a large, 40-ish man who looked to be somehow disabled. I can’t describe it better than a “vacancy” in his look. My comment about his singing was lost on him. At least that was my perception. I thought of a young man with a beautiful voice and a heart full of love…

Back in the car I had so much to say, but “that was worth it” said it all.