Because I currently call the Lighthouse home, I have, I think, a bit of a unique perspective on all the activities that happen in and around our church building on a weekly basis. It never ceases to amaze me, for example, how frequently the parking lot is full on random weekday evenings when you might otherwise assume that this place would be a ghost town.
My most significant experience of this phenomenon, to date, occurred this past Friday in the midst of the treacherous snowstorm and frigid temperatures that affected Ankeny and all of the areas around us. Schools were closed, businesses were closed, and even the church office was closed, meaning that all scheduled activities were cancelled. The church building should have been a ghost town.
And yet, as I looked out the window of my house towards the parking lot (decidedly hunkered down for the day with a cup of cocoa in hand), I saw a flurry of activity. In the midst of the snow and cold, there were at least ten neighborhood kids, bundled up in layers upon layers of snowpants, coats, scarves, and gloves, using the massive snowpile in the parking lot as their new sledding hill. As the sounds of their joy and laughter filled the air, cutting through the blustery wind with ease, I noticed the Family Promise van parked under the South Entrance awning, warming up in preparation for its twice-daily trip into Des Moines to pick up the families who were spending the night in our upstairs classrooms as they transitioned into more permanent housing. As I turned away from the window and returned to the warmth of my blankets, another car entered the parking lot and stopped in front of the Helping Hands Box. A woman emerged with a heavily bundled baby in her arms and selected several cans of food before rushing back into her car and driving away.
My heart was as warm as it had been all day and, let me tell you, it had nothing to do with the cocoa or the blankets.
Even in the midst of the chaos that the latest winter storm brought on, this building – our physical presence in the community – continued to be a place of sanctuary and light. For the kiddos, it was a place where the sheer happiness of a makeshift sledding hill overcame all other cares and concerns. For the guests of Family Promise, it was a place of warmth and shelter on a day when the wind chills hovered around -30F. And for the mother and child, it meant they would have food on the table on a cold winter’s night.
I think, sometimes, we forget all that God can accomplish through even the simplest acts of discipleship. Sometimes, our witness to the hope that has been revealed in us through Jesus Christ does not have to be complicated or difficult. Sometimes, the most meaningful way we can reveal hope to our neighbors is to say “Yes!” when others say “No.”, to open our doors to those who have become accustomed being excluded, or to just simply be with someone who is alone and craving the warmth of companionship.
Just by means of the fact that it is here, our building revealed hope to the community this past weekend. That should make us proud, it should inspire us to care for and maintain this space, and it should cultivate in us a renewed sense of discipleship as we look for the simple ways that we can reveal hope in our everyday lives.
This coming weekend in worship, we will sing one of my favorite hymns: You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore (ELW 817). Originally written in Spanish, it has been a meaningful devotion to me throughout the process of discerning a call to ministry and I think it speaks to the beautiful simplicity of Jesus’ call to discipleship:
You have come down to the lakeshore
seeking neither the wise nor the wealthy,
but only asking for me to follow.
Sweet Lord, you have looked into my eyes;
kindly smiling, you have called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat;
now with you, I will seek other seas.
Where is Jesus calling you to follow this week?