Shoes on the Altar

Update:  You can see the video here:

Love where you live.

That’s the theme at our church for the next few weeks.

There are lots of planned ways to do that over the next few weeks, and it’s fun to be a part of that.  But the goal, as Pastor Alan explained yesterday, is to help us get to the point where we do it in the moment.  Don’t just plan to love where you live sometime next week.  Love where you live in this moment.

His inspiration, in part:  Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan.

Alan said he’d been reading that story over and over, and was impressed by the fact that the Samaritan loved his neighbor in the immediate.  He didn’t say, “Hey, if you’re still in the ditch when I come back through I’ll stop and help you.”  He helped him as soon as he encountered the need.

I loved it.  He said it kinda funny, so I laughed, but totally agreed with the point.

Then came the curve ball.

Alan said that earlier in the week he had called nine different ministries around town to see how they were doing and ask what needs they may have.  In addition to money (who couldn’t use money), he was surprised that there was a common theme that ran through the answer.

“Oh,” I thought. “He’s gonna say they need volunteers.  They need people to show up and help.”

Uh uh.

“Shoes.” he said.  They all mentioned shoes.

“New shoes?” Alan asked them.

No.  Just shoes.

I started picturing all the shoes I had back home in the closet.

I could probably help with that.  He’s gonna ask us to bring back a bunch of shoes next week and we’re gonna have a shoe collection station and I can bring those really nice brown shoes I haven’t worn in several years and maybe a few others and hey, what’s he… no… Dude, you’re not serious!

Alan walked over to the steps and took his shoes off.  Then he challenged everybody in the building to do the same.


Not tomorrow.

Then came the anticipated excuses…

“I know some of you are planning to go out to lunch after church, and they’ll probably have one of those ‘no shoes, no service’ policies.  Just go home and get more shoes.”

Boy, he’s serious.

“Well can I go home and get some shoes and bring them back tomorrow?  No. We aren’t receiving shoes tomorrow,” he said.

Ouch!  I can’t believe a pastor of a church just told procrastinators like me we aren’t welcome to participate.

“If you’re wearing orthopedic shoes or something and you can’t give those up or don’t feel led, that’s fine.  Write a check for shoes and put it in the offering in a few minutes.”

Ha!  This is really going down.  This is going to be interesting.

And get this!  At the invitation/altar call he said, “If you have an issue you need to pray about, stay where you are and pray in your pew.  This altar is for shoes!”

Oh, the response!  Somebody figured around 800 pairs of shoes.  Every imaginable style, size and shape, including some pretty nice pairs of cowboy boots.

It’s hard to describe the feeling – this profound feeling – of being part of that.

It was an odd combination of seeing that something so simple can merge with other offerings to create something so large and powerful.  That happens with every generous offering, but you can’t see that when dollars converge.

It was humbling that something so personal can become so transformational when placed in the hands of Jesus and His servants.  A boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish comes to mind.

Never a foot washing service since the original offered such a combination of humility, leadership, love, and overflowing generosity.

And the result:  Joy.  Great, great joy, expressed in a wide variety of ways – not the least of which was humor.  My son, the youth pastor in Texas, had the joke of the day:  “Good thing they didn’t ask for pants!”

In another sense, afterward it felt like we were already moving on toward other moments – and other opportunities to love where we live.  After the service people did what people do after the service.  They hung out and fellowshipped in the atrium, picked up the kids from Children’s Church, made their way to their cars – most all of them shoeless.

And that was the ultimate point! It wasn’t just about meeting the need.  It was about learning to go beyond talking about it and actually taking immediate action in the moment.  To let our feet do the talking.  Literally.  But then we move on to the next opportunity to love where we live.  And it may never involve shoes again.

What would loving your neighbor in the moment look like to you?

Oh – one thing I forgot to mention.  It was a rainy day.  So we also got to go home with wet feet.

Happy, wet feet.

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