"When you are invited to be a guest , go and sit in the worst place"....
Very soon after I arrived in Toronto, my marriage broke down and I lost my job. It was not that I only had a nickel to my name, I owed several thousand dollars which is worse. I had not been to church for twenty years. I was floundering in the spiritual wasteland of an unattended faith. I had a choice. I could reawaken my dormant faith and reach out for God's hand, or I could wallow in bitterness and despair. I chose the first option. I went to Aunt Helen's Church, Timothy Eaton Memorial. I sat in one of the back pews, nervously
"My friend, take a better seat!"
As I was beginning to leave, being relieved at the ecumenical message of Stan Lucyk's sermon but with the uncertainty of a new experience, a senior looking gentleman approached me and asked if I was new to the church. I replied I was. "My name's Jim. What's your name?" he continued. (Oh Oh, here it comes- my mind raced ahead- the whole bit - who was your father, where'd you go to school, etc.)
"My name's Tom..." (I was about to utter my last name..)
"Welcome to our Church, Tom" and Jim Coulton reached out to shake my hand. I felt accepted then and there. No questions, no qualifications, I was home at last.
"Go out along the back roads and fence rows and make people come in, so my house will be full."
Everyone was moved by the perilous journey the courageous "Boat People" were embarked on. It caused us to realize how trifling our own problems really were. I mused, well if you want to feel better about yourself go help someone out - volunteer for the Church's Boat People Project. At the convening meeting we were asked to find a table and form a team. Very few of us knew more than one or two others. Most knew no one. Let's introduce ourselves. I'm Jim, I'm Stephanie, I'm Jean Marc, I'm Jeanne, I'm Jeanne too, I'm Tom, I'm Miriam. (a young wealthy business owner, a married couple both working in junior management positions with the federal government, a retired professional lady, a hospital file clerk, an unemployed 40'ish fellow (me), and a hospital payroll clerk.) We joined together and became an excellent team shepherding the bicycle repair man from Laos, his wife and three small children into our Canadian life. All of us became good friends and remain so today, including Hong Chi and family.
"Don't invite your friends and relatives and rich neighbours",
because this is not what TEMC is all about. It is about people from all walks of life, from all parts of the city finding ways within a supportive tolerant and empathetic community to regain their spiritual strength, and to join hands in ministering to the needs of others in a generally quiet unsung fashion. This is a great Church with a fluid multi faceted mission fashioned by a diverse congregation. When this is better understood, then we may truly realize we are here and now participating in .....
"The greatest blessing of all is to be at the banquet (of love and service) in God's kingdom"
O Lord, help us to remember You are the God of all. The paths to You are many and varied and all of loving intent are acceptable to You. Amen.