Wednesday, March 13, 2024

A silent witness. . .

A while ago I was on a trip alone and was eating breakfast in a hotel.  It was a busy place with many airline personnel staying at this same hotel which was across from a major airport.  As I bowed my head to pray before eating, I made the sign of the cross.  This simple gesture encouraged a conversation with my server who asked if I was "Catholic" and it gave me an opportunity to unpack more than I would without her question.  It became a long conversation and she kept coming back to the table.  Eventually, I gave her my card, wrote on the back the address of a Lutheran congregation I knew which was close to where she lived and left it at that.  Weeks and weeks passed and I thought very little about it until an email from the server announced that she was receiving instruction at that parish and was on her way to becoming a Lutheran.  She had come from a Baptist household and fell away as a young adult and then got burned out on the promises of a big box evangelical church.  She did not even know she was looking for a church until she saw me make the sign of the cross.  I take no credit in this and it was her initiative to follow up on my small suggestion but it occurred to me that this whole thing began with a small and ordinary gesture -- the sign of the cross.

“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”  Matthew 10:32-33 

We tend to presume that Jesus is referring to full explanations of what we believe and why but His words are made in the context of ordinary lives and people doing ordinary things which reflect what we believe.  Praying before meals in public and making the sign of the cross constitute two of the more routine things Christians tend to do but often not in public.  Why not?  People are watching.  This is not the kind of surveillance which is sinister but reflective of the hunger people have for real truth, a faith built upon fact and truth, and a hope which will not disappoint.  I believe the world is ripe for such a witness and yet at the same time tired of the words.  They are looking for people who practice their faith in ordinary ways, even in a matter of fact sort of way.  They are looking for ordinary faith manifested in ordinary people.  That is certainly me.  And in this small way, it affected my server -- encouraging her to pursue the faith and find a home church.  Was she a Christian before our conversation?  Probably.  But she was not in church, not hearing God's Word preached nor receiving the Sacrament of the Altar.  Now she is.  So let me encourage you with this small story to be public in your faith even without words.  Show reverence, modesty, humility, and holiness.  Pray with the accompanying gestures of the faith.  It will not earn you your salvation but it does speak with a still small voice that folks are listening for.  Don't be afraid.  Do not be intimidated.   The sign of the cross is also very Lutheran, by the way.  If you don't believe me, read what Luther wrote in his catechism.

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