Craig and I were sitting in the seventh row. We arrived at about 7:00 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. concert. At about 7:20, we watched as many very excited teenagers started to fill the rows in front of us. Some of them looked as though they had won the lottery. Slowly, more and more excited young people started to arrive in the first and second rows. We soon learned that these people had come from the very top of the Verizon Center. Some of them were sitting on the back row and others were sitting on the next to last row when someone came, tapped them on the shoulder, and offered them a better seat. The performance organizers were filling up the front rows with people in the very back rows. Those with some of the worst seats in the house were being given the best seats in the house.
It was such a blessing to watch the reaction on these individuals' faces when they saw their new seats. Many of them looked so surprised. They looked as though they could hardly believe what was happening to them. The last were becoming first. Those who had been placed in the very back were coming to the very front.
Is this not what can happen in the church every time we gather?
The church is called to bring to the inside anyone who has been pushed aside - anyone who has been told they are not good enough or they are not smart enough or they do not love the right way or act the right way. The church is called to bring to the front anyone who has been cast off. The church is called to radically reach out and say, "You belong here. You are precious in the eyes of God. You are our honored guest. Come on down to the front."
One of the things I love about Mount Vernon Place is that there are people here who stand at the center of our community who receive little value everywhere else. There are people in our congregation who are at the core of who we are as a community who have been tossed aside in so many other places by so many other people - but here they are valued.
We still have a long ways to go when it comes to flinging our doors open as wide as they can go. Still, we are working on it. And, I hope and pray I get to see more reactions in church like I saw at the Coldplay concert last night - people saying to others, "What, you want me to sit here?"
"Excuse me, you are allowing ME to be in the front row?"
"Are you sure about this?"
Yes, I am sure about this!