Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“A Church for All People.” (Part One)

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I got a call late one Sunday night from a faithful leader in the church. The previous Sunday I had preached a sermon on the importance of welcoming all people into the church and creating an open door policy for “whosoever will let him or her come” into the fellowship of Christ Jesus. I preached hard that day and insisted that members of the church show hospitality to all visitors and to always be ready if necessary to give up their parking spaces to people who visited the church.  I told the congregation that hospitality is the key to the success of any church. The church should have an umbilical relationship with the community and should serve as a life line for any person who walks through its doors.

The last line in my sermon was, “We should be a church for all people; yes I mean all people; all people meaning every person who wants to visit the church and there should be no exceptions to this rule!”

“Reverend, you preached a mighty fine sermon today and I would like to talk with you about something in private sometime this week.”

“What time do you want to come in brother Tisdale?”

How about this coming Tuesday at ten o’clock in the morning.? I will meet you in your office.”

“Fine,” I said, half sleep. ” I’ ll see you then.”

That Tuesday I met with brother Tisdale who was a nervous wreck when he walked in my office. He looked as though he had not slept in days and was totally disheveled. His eyes darted back and forth as if he had seen a ghost and he fumbled nervously for his cell phone as he took a seat in the big black easy chair in my office.

“Reverend. I want to talk with you about something that’s very important to me. I don’t know how to tell you this but when you preached that sermon this past Sunday about the church being for all people my heart burned. I was totally convicted and felt really ashamed.”

“Really? Why brother Tisdale?” I asked, puzzled.

“Well it’s a long story. I know how you have been saying that God is no respecter of persons and that we should be a church for all people including people of different races and ethnicities and that God would want us all to dwell in harmony because God loves us all. We are all God’s children and it should not matter what a person looks like or what color his hair, skin or eyes, are. We are all part of God’s creation…..”

“And?” I asked after taking a seat and moving to the edge of my chair.

“Well, the “and” is that I have been practicing discrimination against someone who has been begging me to come to our church. I have repeatedly refused to let him come because I did not think that he would fit in and as I thought and prayed over this, I was finally convicted by your sermon. You are so right. What should the church be about anyway if not to welcome all of God’s children? So after hearing your sermon I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to come in to talk with you.”

“And”? I asked impatiently, trying to hasten him to his main point.

“Well, he has been a faithful listener of our radio broadcast for many years and keeps calling me to ask for a time that he can visit us. He wants to meet you and keeps asking for an introduction so he can find out more about membership. He is really serious about joining the church?”

“Well, who is he and where does he live? How can we get him to the church so I can meet him and introduce him to our church family? We don’t want to miss any opportunity for winning a soul for Christ. If he wants to come to church, then let him come. Don’t hinder the man if he is seeking a relationship with the Lord.”

“He is a member of my own family Reverend and I really feel bad about this but I had to talk with you about this,” he said nervously.

“And? Is there a problem? Is there some issue? Come out with it man and tell me what is bothering you,” I
said in an urgent tone. “What is his name? What can we do for him? I might know the man. Is he young or old? Does he live far or near? Is he abled or disabled? Who is he? Where is he? Let’s get him here!” I said rising from my chair with my Sunday morning holy tone of voice.”

“Ok Reverend but there is just one problem,” said Tisdale, slumping further into the chair and hanging his head even lower.

“And? What is the problem my dear brother?”

“The problem Reverend is that he is a midget and he is my first cousin.”

“His name is Marty but he only wants to be known as Marty the Midget Millionaire. He wants no one to know his last name.

“He is a good midget and he is a millionaire,” he said tearfully. “His last name is Showalter, but please don’t tell him that I told you.”

Feeling somewhat relieved, I comforted Tisdale and said, “Well man. That’s ok. Tell me a little more about Marty.”

Sitting upright in the chair, Tisdale went on. “Well he is one of the strongest persons I know. At eighteen he could bench press 250 pounds and had reputation for whipping heads in the neighborhood. People teased him because of his height but Marty did not play. Once a gang tried to jump me and Marty after coming out of a High School dance, and after hurling three of the gang members one by one over a nearby fence, the other three took off running. He is an amazing person. He made his fortune in stocks and bonds. He is the shortest person I know and the strongest too. He is something. You have to see him to believe him. He has a heart of gold and would give you his shirt even if it didn’t fit. He’s just that kind of guy.”

“His only pet peeve is that he wants to be treated like a normal human being. That’s all. No special treatment or anything else. His motto is “Life is too short to be small. We all got some growing to do so don’t be looking at me like I’m strange and treat everybody like you want to be treated.”

“Well Marty sounds like our kind of guy. We will not discriminate against Marty or anyone else like him. I would be delighted to meet him and would welcome him into our church. God loves everybody and that includes people of smaller stature  It’s not the size of the man in the fight that makes a difference but the size of the fight in the man that says a lot.”  

“When I said that we are church that welcomes all people, I meant it. Let us welcome him and any other midget who wants to join our ranks and files.”

“Thanks brother Tisdale.”

“Thanks Reverend. You have always been my friend, ” he said rising from the chair, as I put my arm around his shoulder and walked him to the door like Don Vito Corleone did Amerigo Bonasera in the opening scenes of Godfather I.

“And Tisdale, let me say this to you my brother,” I said looking him straight in his eyes.  “Each of us has a little midget in him. We all need to grow some more in God’s eyes especially spiritually. Perhaps Marty can teach us some things about how to grow to be a real person and how to fight for your rightful place in a world dominated by taller people.”

“You’re right Reverend. You’re right.”

“And let me say this to you Tisdale.  If there are any other midgets in your family or in your neighborhood or at your job, tell them that they are welcome here too.”

” I will Reverend. I will and Thanks. I feel much better now Reverend. I will bring Marty to church on Family and Friends Sunday.”

“Good. We all look forward to meeting him.” Would you be willing to give up your parking space?

“No Reverend. He won’t need it. Marty has a limousine driver.”

“In that case do you think that he could give me a ride home?”

“Ill ask him, he said chuckling on his way out the door. “I am sure that he would be delighted to give you a ride home.”

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