Gen, the concierge, has delighted us with her knowledge of the city and her pure passion of what she does for a living - telling others what to see and what to eat. Patrick, our waiter night before last, made sure that we had a great meal. He delighted us with a charming tray of chocolates complete with a "congratulations" chocolate in the middle and then two glasses of Quebec's own iced cider at the end of the meal. The shopkeepers have gone out of their way to speak with us even with limited English. The man at the table next to us during last night's dinner gave us a list of places to see on our next stop, Montreal. The people have contributed so much to our time in this city. They have made Quebec the lovely, charming, romantic and kind city that we have experienced. Their words and their actions have made a lasting impression.
Throughout our time in Quebec, I have been very aware that Craig and I are also making an impression on these people. Whether we like it or not, people are aware that we are not from this place. We are Americans - we are visitors - and our actions, our words, our acts of gratitude - speak for more people than just the two of us. In some people's eyes, we are speaking for an entire nation - a place called America.
There is so much power wrapped up in an impression, particularly a first impression.
I keep thinking about the impression of the church. The church makes an impression all of the time - whether we like it or not. We make an impression with our property - by how well it is maintained but also by how we use it. We make an impression with our programs and ministries - by what we do for and with each other and especially by what we do for others. We make an impression when we are inside the church but especially when we are outside of the church - by how we speak, by how we live, by the words and actions we embody. And unfortunately, too much of the church's impression has been negative at times. So often, I encounter people who want nothing to do with the church because the church, for them, has been a place of judgment, a place of hatred, a place of exclusion. And, just as I do not want to be associated with some of the loud, always forgetting to say 'thank you' Americans who we have encountered in this city, I would rather not be associated with this part of the church.
I love the church. I love being a part of a people who look and act like Christ. But what if we worked even harder to be like Jesus? What if we went out of our way to embody the best of Christ? One woman in this city walked all the way back into her building to get us directions. She looked as though she was in a hurry, but she allowed us to slow her down by at least five minutes. Are we willing to go out of our way to encounter the lost? Are we willing to go out of the way to see that others are fed - the very best of what we have? Are we willing to provide hospitality - extravagant hospitality to the stranger who might be an angel unaware?
Lord, help us to embody your love and your grace. Enable us to show your light shining through all we say and do. Use us to build your church!
Now it's off to Montreal!