There was nothing special or particularly unique about the exterior of this church. It was just like so many others we had seen on our travels through this region of Germany. Red bricks and painted concrete that were typical of public buildings in this part of the country. It had a bell tower that reached upward and out of my line of sight through the window. Looking out the window of our pension, it was almost close enough to touch. But the bells! The bells rang clear and loud! They rang to call the people to come to mass. Come to worship. But they did not come.
I see myself sitting now at the table by the window watching. It is almost time for mass. The priest comes out the front doors and opens them wide, letting in the evening summer air and light. Letting in the people. But they do not come. He is dressed in his white robes trimmed in purple and gold. He looks to the right. The bells ring out. He looks to the left. The bells stop. He stands for a moment and even from my perch in the second story window across the street, I can almost hear him sigh. People are hustling and bustling by, not even pausing to take notice. They have places to go. Things to do. They have no time for the church.
From down the road comes an old lady. Slowly, tapping with her cane as she makes her way over the centuries of cobblestones that cover the road. She is dressed in a typical German house dress with a gray oversized sweater across her shoulders. She is wearing a patterned scarf tied under her chin. It covers her head. I know she has been to town for she is carrying a large bag and I can see the end of a loaf of bread sticking out. I’m sure there is also cheese, meat and vegetables in the bag. She silently nods a greeting to the priest as she enters the doorway. He takes one more look down the street and then turns to follow her, closing the door behind him.
For some reason this scenario plays over and over again in my mind even though this trip was in the summer of 2008. When I look at the picture of the church taken from our window, I see it clearly as if I was sitting there still. And even after six years, it breaks my heart. My heart breaks for the priest as he continues to faithfully serve this small community only to have no one respond. My heart breaks for the old woman who took her time to seek God in fellowship, only to find she was there alone. And my heart breaks for God who waits patiently for us to take time from our day-to-day busy lives…and come to Him.
But my heart also breaks for myself. For those lost moments that I could have spent sharing with Him. How many times have I walked past my Bible sitting on my desk and not stopped, because I “just don’t have time for devotions today?” How many times have I heard the Holy Spirit nudging to me to call a friend or send a card and I’m just “too busy?” How many? How many missed moments?
Not for Himself, but so He can bless me and touch my life with His unfailing love. His love doesn’t care if my dishes aren’t done or the laundry is in a pile on the couch. He just wants me to come. His love sees past my struggles and pain and reaches into the deepest part of my heart. His love gives me the strength to keep on keeping on. All I have to do is come!
It is so easy in our lives to make excuses and come up with legitimate reasons why we don’t go to church, or visit a sick friend, or volunteer at the local warming shelter.
It reminds me of a Keith Green song from the 80’s that said, “God can’t cash out of state checks in Heaven…He needs you.” That thought has always stuck with me, but I have to confess that I haven’t always heeded its message. Why?
It’s simple. I’m too busy being the “me” I want…to make time to be the me that God wants me to be. And when that happens, it is as if I am standing outside the red brick church in Germany, and the door is shut.
We need to….I need to, fling the doors open wide and run into His presence with thanksgiving on our lips and in our hearts. I would challenge you as we approach the fall season and a new school year, to take time to think about your life. Is God calling you to come? The question is…will you answer? He is waiting!