Love one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:10-13
One of my dearest friends in this world was a sainted man named Maynard Lueth. One time, when I was preaching a sermon on vicarage, I saw him settle in for the message. He wrapped his arm around the end of the pew, shut his eyes, rested his head on his shoulder, and didn't move until 20 minutes later, I said, "Amen."
Later that week I confronted him by saying, "I know not all my sermons are interesting, but you could at least give me a chance before you take a nap."
He informed me that shutting his eyes was how he listened.
When I laughed at that explanation, he proceeded to give me an outline of my message so perfect I could have used it to preach my sermon. I wish I could say the same for everyone who has ever shut their eyes when I started preaching.
In truth there are people who sleep in church. One such person is 42-year-old William Barker. When I say William Barker slept in church, I mean he slept in church. Let me explain.
Barker regularly attended Mass at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Arlington County, Virginia.
According to police, Barker "would wait until the evening hours when there was less staff around, pop a ceiling tile, use a ladder, crawl up to his own space in the attic, pull the ladder up there and occupy it until the next morning." In that attic Barker also had a guitar, food, water and extra clothing, which he hung from the rafters.
Now I found this story fascinating because Mr. Barker managed to pull this off for three years.
Three years when nobody noticed him. Three years when he was regularly one of the last people in the building. Three years when no one paid a visit to him in his home. Three years when nobody at church put him on a mailing list. Three years when no elder was made responsible for him. Three years when, well, you get the drift. I'm saying William Barker was not the only one who was sleeping at St. Ann's.
The truth is we are to love each other, help each other, encourage each other as the Lord has done for us.
That means we have to work hard at making sure people don't fall through the cracks.
The Lord has given us a wonderful message of salvation to share. That message of salvation through the Savior's blood does not begin with the pastor saying, "Grace, mercy and peace be unto you," and it does not end with his final "Amen." Most certainly, a sermon is incredibly important and is used by the Holy Spirit to touch people, but what everyone else says and does is also important.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, there are needy souls all around me. May I reach out to them with the Gospel message of salvation by faith in Christ. Let no one pass by my church -- and myself -- unnoticed or uncared for. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries