Monday, April 27, 2015

The Disruptive Visitor

Yesterday I got to church just after 9:00, and a man was sleeping against the back of the outside of the fellowship hall.  I asked our pastor if he had seen the man, and he nodded.  He said, "I tend to leave sleeping people alone, unless there's some larger issue like alcohol."

Our 9:45 service is held in the fellowship hall so that the choir can have one last practice in the sanctuary before our 11:00 service.  At 10:20, as we were around a big table having a discussion, the man came into the fellowship hall and got a cup of coffee.  We were talking about free will and our understanding of God's plan for us.

The man quoted several verses from Proverbs and left the building.  As we prepared to pray 10 minutes later, he came back.  I asked if he wanted to join our prayer circle, and he said, "Yes.  But not like this.  He is risen!"  And off he went again.

He came to the 11:00 service and sat in the back.  As we sang "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today," the man seemed to be singing, but also rising his fist in triumph.  Throughout the service, he occasionally shouted, "Alleluia" or "Amen."  For the most part, he wasn't disruptive.

During the prayers of the people, he wasn't visible on the back pew, but he did raise his arm, pointing towards the sky.  When our pastor said, "The peace of the Lord be with you," the man pointed at the front of the church.

When people came up for Communion, he came up to the altar, instead of kneeling at the rail.  Our pastor explained the procedure, and he knelt.  But then he started yelling a verse from Revelation, I think, something about the mark of the beast.

Since he had been seeming increasingly agitated, we asked him to leave, and one of our burlier men walked him out.  He left calmly.

My spouse and I talked about it on the way home, and I heard people talking about it on the way out.  Most people were scared.  Some people thought the man was harmless.  He wore an Army t-shirt and had a big Army duffle, which made some people nervous about his ability to kill us all.

My spouse said, "Maybe he had a Messiah complex.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Until he seemed to be channeling Satan."

We talked about how the people of Jesus' day likely would have seen Jesus the same way our church did:  Jesus would have made them uneasy, with his disruption of services, although they might have been impressed with his knowledge of Scripture.  Many would have speculated on Jesus' mental health, although they'd have talked about it differently.  They'd have seen Jesus as possessed.

My spouse said that the man did us all a favor.  Most of us are probably not nearly as attentive on a weekly basis as we were yesterday.  We are not as involved with the worship service as that man was yesterday.

I will continue to think about this stranger who showed up on the second Sunday after Easter.  I'll think about Jesus, who hung out with the strangers and the outcast.  I'll think about God, who hangs out with the lowly. 

I doubt that I'll be any more sure of what to do than I was yesterday.

1 comment:

John Flanagan said...

The man you described is a troubled soul indeed. Many people share his problem, an unsettled mind, confused about the disparity between real life and what we want it to be. Religion and the actual practice of Christian values leads some to be legalists, some to question its meanings, and causes still others to feel unworthy and outcasts they wander aimlessly. We need to keep our focus on the person and deity of Jesus, and then our faith becomes real, and the troubled soul finds comfort.