He said his name was Jose. I don’t know if that was his real name or not but that’s what he said as he walked into our small Blue Christmas service. He was holding a bag from Dominos Pizza and wearing a blue sweatshirt and some very loose fitting grey sweatpants. He walked in and said to me that he needed to confess his sins. He then started walking around the front of the sanctuary reciting what sounded very much like Roman Catholic confessional liturgy and sharing that he had done some bad things in his life. I won’t lie, I was not 100% comfortable with the situation – Jose clearly had some mental health challenges and you never know what someone like that will do. But after he walked back to where I was in the center aisle, I pronounced that God forgives him his sins, he nodded and then slowly walked to the back of the sanctuary, down the steps into the narthex, and out the door. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. That all took place around 7:20pm tonight.
Let’s rewind a bit…It was 7:03 and the joint Blue Christmas / Longest Night service held by the congregation I serve and First Presbyterian down the street had me, FPC’s pastor, our music director, and our executive presbyter. So, we decided to simply pray together, A few pieces of music were shared, we lit candles and prayed for people we know are grieving and hurting, and I shared s slimmed down version of the message for the night which was primarily based around PBH’s take on Psalm 12. I combined their song with a photo I took about a week ago and played around with it to reflect a reality I feel about grief and loss and, to be perfectly honest, about the path of discipleship as a whole. We know the promises that God has made but there are lots of times that when we look at our lives, the reality of those promises seems a lot fuzzier. So, the video below is what I put together – a slow progression of the unknown into the known much like Psalm 12 reflects.
The Psalmist sings of the reality of evil and evildoers in the world even while proclaiming the promises of God. They’re both in there together.
The four of us could have closed up shop at 7:05 when we saw that no one else was coming but if we had, Jose would have found a darkened church with a locked door. I don’t know if he really took in the blessing I shared with him – maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But the promise was shared and he seemed to go out in peace. I don’t know where he is tonight or where he was going. But what I do know is that we then lit a candle for Jose.
Maybe that was why we were there tonight.