I sat quietly, waiting for the funeral to start. The church was large, the auditorium spacious. Silence crept around the room, behind the flowers and under the seats.
In the midst of this peace, the ushers brought a man in a wheel chair to the aisle seat, perhaps four rows in front of me. He was gruff and unpleasant, mumbling about something. After the ushers kindly helped him into his seat, he looked around with a harumph and wanted to know what they were going to do if he had to go to the bathroom. A valid concern.
The ushers looked nervously at each other as this man shouted at them, as I would have in their position. But they kindly stated that they would keep his wheelchair at the back, and if he needed it all he had to do was wave back to them. He grunted his reply. Clearly that was an unsatisfactory option.
Throughout this entire exchange I, the eternal introvert, did not even consider offering my help to the man in the wheelchair. After all, that would have required me standing up, walking over to him, and engaging with his extremely abrasive exterior. Besides, the ushers had it under control, thank-you-very-much.
But then something very minor and very beautiful happened.
Sitting directly behind the grumpy old man was one of the head pastors of the church. Let me explain first that this is one of the largest churches in our area, a popular and successful place. As one of the main pastors there, he could have sat back and let the ushers do their job. He could have remained anonymous to the man in the wheelchair. Seeing this man’s gruff exterior, he could have, like I, blended quietly in with the crowd.
Instead, he leaned forward and tapped the man gently on the shoulder and whispered so that I could barely hear.
“Excuse me, sir, if you need your wheelchair, just let me know. I’m one of the pastors here, and I’d be happy to help you.”
The man answered with one of those serious (perhaps appreciative?) frowns and a nod in the affirmative.
* * * * *
Jesus sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”