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Free breakfast! Bob would like to invite you to breakfast at 9 a.m. on Sundays at Ascension Lutheran Church on Nash Street.
And when I say breakfast, I’m not talking Pop-Tarts and cold cereal. There are pancakes, breakfast casseroles, sausage, bacon, eggs, French toast: all kinds of varieties of breakfast items depending on the day and who is actually cooking that morning. Breakfast is at 9 and during the summer we have our worship service at 10 a.m. Bob says you can eat and then pray or you can eat and go if you like, it is an open invitation!
Now at the heart of this invitation is a name that keeps popping up: Bob.
Bob is a member of my congregation who is filled with a lifetime of character. That character is colored by a genuine love of his church home and a continuous flow of ideas of how to invite people to be a part of one of the sustaining parts of his life: his faith and his church home. If you’ve read this column before, you’ve probably heard mention of Bob or at least been influenced by him. That’s because many of his big ideas are ones that I have written about in this very column. And most prominently, his most influential idea was my writing of this very column itself!
About 2 ½ years ago, as we were counting down to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, at about the four-hour mark of a meeting when everyone just wanted to go home, Bob suggested a couple of ideas. For the 500th, we should have an Oktoberfest and the pastor should write a weekly column for the paper. Everyone else just wanted to go home, so we all agreed that these were great ideas. With Oct. 9 months away, that idea could wait. And what were the chances any newspaper would let me write for them sight unseen? But, as fate would have it, the editor called me within 24 hours!
Bob’s last-minute ideas for that meeting resulted in a rather detailed series of articles on the history of the Reformation and morphed now into over two years worth of me writing for The Wilson Times. It resulted in an Oktoberfest celebration that took up our whole campus with free food, fun and events for all ages as an all-day example of God’s unconditional grace in the form of a gift to the community. And then we did it again, and are planning another version for this fall!
Bob has had other big ideas, and some were just as successful as the few I’ve mentioned here. But there have been a few others that just left folks scratching their heads (the community garden that had our old steeple converted to a giant sprinkler system in the middle of the property out back leaps to mind). However, for all his grand ideas, Bob has never been stymied by what can or cannot be done. And he certainly has not been stopped by whether he himself can do the idea or not (most times whether it’s words or nails involved, Bob takes the “supervisory” role while some of the rest of us deal with the detail stuff!). But there is one commonality to these ideas, big and small, that actually come right back to that latest breakfast invitation.
You see, Bob isn’t trying to get anything out of his ideas. He has no ulterior motive or hidden agenda. In fact, he is probably aghast that the name “Bob” is repeated so often in this column. His whole deal is that he has walked this earth for more than eight decades and found that his faith is so important to him that he wants to share it with others. He’s found that his church home is loving and supportive all the time. And in an era when it seems almost every aspect of life wants to be divisive, Bob just wants to invite people to come to a place where EVERYONE is welcome.
Where the world wants to divide everyone by class, age, political party, race and all those other false divisions, the Church just invites everyone who is a part of God’s creation to come together around the table for a meal. Breakfast is a great meal because it starts the day off. But in worship, we have a meal that Jesus started called Communion (which literally breaks down to “unioning together”) to tell all of God’s children (that’s YOU!) that you are forgiven, accepted, loved and belong no matter what you’ve got going on in life. Because no matter what harebrained ideas you might come up with in your own 80-plus years or more, God just wants to let you know that you are part of the family of God, and he loves you!
Around the breakfast table, you are invited to have a waffle and share a story or two. But around the Communion table, you are invited to know your connection to the Creator and the rest of creation. You are invited to know a heavenly Father who welcomes prodigals home with great celebrations. And you are welcomed to recognize sisters and brothers you may have never even realized you had any connection with.
Maybe you never knew you had a brother named Jesus. Maybe you never knew you had a brother named Bob. But you are invited on Sundays to a breakfast meal at 9 and the most important meal of the day at 10. And in the words of Jesus, Bob would just want to give the invitation, “Come and see!”
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.