On this beautiful Easter morning I walked into church, arm in arm with my husband expecting to participate in a morning of worship and praise. There is something special about going to church on resurrection Sunday and of course my heart was full of expectations: to see the children all dolled up in their precious Easter outfits, to hear the sounds of merry worshipers praising our King, to take in the commingled scent of old-lady perfume and grandfatherly aftershave.
About as soon as we walked in, the pastor called everyone to the front of the church so that we could begin with a corporal prayer. Eyes closed, hearts open, we thanked our Lord for his sacrifice on the cross so many years ago and prayed that we would hear His voice each and everyday. When the prayer was over, we returned to our seats, ready to worship.
Now, even as the prayer was being made, people flowed into the church and when we returned to our pew, the formerly empty row before us was filled. A group of about seven strangers had settled themselves in and when I looked at their faces I could see the mark of mental illness adorning most their faces. Their open mouths, glassy eyes, and slouched bodies betrayed them, no matter how clean and neat their caretaker had strived to make them look. Such as it was, I took my seat behind them and waited for the music to begin.
When the music started, so did the man in front of me. He began to clap and rock his entire upper torso to the beat of the music. He was so happy to be in the house of the Lord! Not wanting to be left behind in worship, I opened up my mouth began to sing along. When the man heard my voice, he whipped his head around and gave me one of the warmest smiles I have ever seen. It didn't matter if his teeth were crooked or that his eyes were simple. This man knew joy in a way that I'll never know.
My eyes swelled with tears as I meditated on the compassion Christs has for the "least of these" (Matthew 25:40) who are so often begrudged or forgotten by society. I smiled back each and every time the worshiper happened to look my way and thanked the lord for this beautiful Easter surprise.