The pastor was proud of his church’s building. Great heaves of old gray brick and stone reached upward above the neighborhood skyline, the tallest of which sported a cross. It was commonly used as a landmark in directions or when one had lost their way. A black cast iron fence lined the sidewalk, protecting an immaculate lawn. A sign just inside the gate read, “Please stay off the grass.” Flowerbeds boasted red and orange tulips, pansies and poppies. The front doors were cast open beneath a gothic arch. It too was spotless. Any spider foolish enough to spin a web in that entryway found its handiwork brushed away just after dawn each morning. This day was no different.
Sunday morning had come again and people were making their way to the building for their service. Women donning sundresses of yellow, pink or green clung to their charcoal-suited men. Boys with their hair brushed to the side chased their sisters up and down the sidewalks and sometimes into the great doors. When they made it that far, the pastor was quick to give their parents the look- they had better get their little ones in line. The dark hickory parquet floor didn’t have a scratch or a smudge on it- and wouldn’t.
Blue-blazored greeters distributed liturgies, smiles and hugs to congregants before they ambled to the same pew they sat in every week. At ten o’clock sharp, the band started to play. People stood and sang along. From where he sat, the pastor was elated as songs of praise reverberated through the beautiful sanctuary and out the open doors into the neighborhood. He felt that their joyous singing beckoned to the community, inviting them to come experience the love of Christ for themselves.
After two hymns and a few contemporary songs, the band stepped down and the pastor took his place. He grasped a microphone in his hand and in his drawl he said, “Let us pray. Dear heavenly…”
A car pulled up to the stoplight just out the front door. Loud bass from nasty rap music emanated from it. In the same way that the singing of the saints echoed out the door, this putrid song was coming in. The pastor prayed louder, but the music was clearly a distraction. Irritated, the minister asked God for a green light so their friend and his excessive music could be on their way. From there, he began to preach.
He spoke of the man on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, waiting for the good Samaritan of Luke 10. “Why was that man there? What did he do?” He paused, looking at his people, providing time to conjure up some reason for this man’s beating.
Outside, he could hear teenagers speaking. Their conversation was slowly getting louder as they drew near. “And do wanna know what he said to her? He said that he was gonna call her and he didn’t! He’s a lying piece of…”
The minister’s face flushed with embarrassment. If he, standing so far from the open doors could hear these young people, everyone else could too. He decided he must push on through his sermon. The distracting and vulgar teens were soon gone. He continued in his exhortation, only for more cars blasting loud, inappropriate music to drive by and more pedestrians and their conversations to draw attention away from the Word of the Lord.
He drew near to the climax of his sermon, “And that, brothers and sisters is the better example here! Who cares how you got into your mess! You still need…” Sirens rang in the distance, but they, just like everything else outside that day were growing in volume as a firetruck meandered through neighborhood streets.
The pastor motioned to the ushers. A couple of them nodded, jogged to the back of the sanctuary and closed the heavy doors, shutting out neighborhood noises.
The sermon concluded in peace.