I first heard of Jesus here, in this little country church, tucked away in small town Tarleton, Ohio. My Granny would drive us, my older brother and me, every Sunday come hell or highwater, snowstorm or sleet. There were a handful of times I thought for sure we would meet Jesus face to face as Granny white knuckled her way through, wipers on high, barely able to see and thankful it was a straight shot down highway 159.
The familiar smell of musty wooden pews and old people welcomed you as you walked into the vestibule, that space where you could hang your coat and ring the bell. We always entered the sanctuary by the left door and sat in the third pew from the front on the right side. Esther Miller sat directly behind us and was the volunteer janitor. Virginia (Ginny) Green sat at the far end of our row and ran the VBS every summer which hosted an average of 15 kids. Her husband Pearl was my bus driver when I was in high school.
There would be announcements of bake sales and fundraisers and if it was your birthday you got to go up front, put a penny in the bucket, get a pencil that said Happy Birthday and the congregation would sing to you. Those pencils had the best erasers.
We would open our hymnals and sing the first and last verse of a couple familiar songs. Unless we were feeling extra festive then we would sing all four verses though the middle two were sung with less spirit as people weren’t as familiar with the words. Diane Miller (Esther’s daughter) played the piano and never missed a beat when a key was stuck or out of tune.
The preacher would make his way from the front row to the pulpit. Since we were a small country church, we would get the retirees who weren’t quite ready to give up sharing the good news. My favorite was an older gentleman with soft grey/white fluffy hair, kind eyes and a gentle voice. He would talk about Jesus as if he were his best friend and he invited us to make him our friend too.
This small band of believers made sure the sick was visited, the hungry were fed and if there was a need and someone could meet it then it was met. This community wasn’t rich by any means but had huge hearts and willing spirits.
It was the first place I met Jesus. Right there. In Nowhere, Ohio. But then again, he often meets us in the strangest of places.
In John 4 we see Jesus waiting for a woman, not in a sanctuary, but beside a well. He knew her need and met her where she would be.
In Luke 10 we see Jesus meeting in the home of a couple of sisters by the name of Mary and Martha. He gives Mary her first taste of theology by allowing her to sit at his feet and soak up his teaching.
In Luke 8 Jesus meets a demoniac by the name of Legion, not in a church service but on the shore of the sea of Galilee.
In Luke 13 we find Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and notices a crippled woman. She gets to go forward and meet Jesus who then met her need…even on a Sabbath day of rest!
He meets Mary Magdalene in a garden outside of his very own tomb. He meets her in her grief and shares the good news of His Good News and tells her to tell the others.
He met with people on mountainsides and muddy pig sties. Offshore in a boat and places remote. He saw people no one else sees….the blind, the wounded and the least of these.
There is no place that Jesus doesn’t see us or want to meet with us. Sometimes I think we make it too hard. Like we have to live loud and be mega for Jesus to notice.
He meets you. Right where you are.
Whether it’s in a pew or a fancy chair. Whether your congregation is 10 or 10,000. Whether you’re a big city church or a country congregation.
He meets you and will use you. Right where you are.
I first met Jesus in that little country church. I got to see him in action long after I moved away when Esther and Ginny visited my Granny in the nursing home every Sunday until she passed. I can just hear them say “I will” when the old man with white/grey hair asked who could visit Alice in the nursing home.
Jesus met with my Granny all the way to the end through two friends.
Where has Jesus met you?