Trish and I were truly blessed by the warm wishes and wonderful gifts we received for our twenty-fifth anniversary last month. One of our favorite gifts was a set of Red Lobster gift cards. We don’t often get to go there, so when we do we try to make it special. We got a sitter for the kids and headed to Red Lobster for our anniversary dinner.
Now, I really love lobster, but I don’t get it very often. Also, since I didn’t grow up on the coast, I’m not really a “natural” when it comes to opening up the shell. So, I have a routine I’ve developed over the years. Before we leave, I watch a YouTube video I found on how to clean a lobster in under five minutes. Sometimes I watch the video twice. I don’t want to get to the restaurant, have this giant “bug” on my plate and end up looking like I don’t know what I’m doing.
Eating lobster can be intimidating, especially for landlubbers from Illinois. I am completely out of my element. It doesn’t help that you have to use special tools (lobster crackers) and you have to wear special clothes. And trust me, there is nothing manly about wearing a lobster bib!
While I was attacking my meal I found my thoughts turning to, what else, church attendance! For some of us, coming to church every week is routine and familiar. But for others it’s something that is only done on special occasions and, when they do attend, it can be a little intimidating. They have to remind themselves of the rules—when to sit, when to stand, how to take communion. Maybe it would help if there was a “how to do church” video on YouTube.
In addition, there are special tools (like Bibles and bulletins) and special clothing that, quite honestly, most people don’t want to wear in the first place.
As good as lobster might be, eating it is a lot of work. If people are starving they don’t need a chore—they need a meal. If people are looking for spiritual nourishment how well are we feeding them if we’re intimidating them and making them work for their meal?
In Matthew 19 we read the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus. I’m sure he was dressed in his finest clothes and knew perfectly the rules of polite society. And yet all his possessions and perfection couldn’t save him and he walked away sad. Immediately preceding his story we find a group of children being brought to Jesus for prayer. The disciples initially rejected and rebuked them. I doubt they were dressed in fine clothes and, from my own time with children, I’m sure they didn’t know the rules of polite society.
And yet what does Jesus say? “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).”
Jesus’ invitation to the kingdom of heaven has “Come as You Are” written on it. He’s not looking for people who know all the rules; he’s looking for people who are hungry.
And so are we.