Our church assembles in a small building.
There are two joined rooms upstairs where the younger children meet,
and one bigger room downstairs,
and an outhouse.
Five minutes into worship this morning,
my five-year-old nephew came downstairs.
He looked around the room, spotted me and made a beeline for me --
pushing right through a row of people, instead of going around.
I assumed he needed to be taken out to the outhouse,
and his mom was upstairs, and his daddy was up front,
so I reached out my hand and took his
and started walking toward the back with him.
But he was just trying to ask me a question.
I leaned over so I could hear better.
"Is Aliyah okay?"
I made him repeat it, because I hadn't heard well.
When I did understand, I got a little alarmed.
She is my four-year-old niece.
Both her parents were leading worship, too.
"Isn't she upstairs?"
"Where is she?"
He pointed to the back row, and there she was, sitting with another family.
I'm sure her parents knew where she was.
But her teacher upstairs, who had expected to see her, didn't know.
And she cared.
"Yes, she looks okay."
He ran back upstairs to deliver the news.
Our 'service' was interrupted because of concern over one member.
Because we are family.
And when a member of your family is not where they ought to be,
family members grow worried.
Where is your brother?
Is someone missing who ought to be there?
Cain said, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
But we say, "Is Aliyah okay?"
Is she safe?
Is she wandering outside when she should be together with family?
Do you care? Do you check?
Or is the form of the service of more importance than the members of it?
Maybe a brother has fallen among thieves,
and lies bleeding on the road to Jerusalem.
He was coming from worship.
But he slipped when an enemy assaulted him,
and he can't get himself up.
His wounds have grown infected.
He has nothing left.
And he isn't even decently dressed anymore.
He curses to himself and wishes he was dead.
He's tried to yell for help, but the smell drives them all away.
They are headed to prayer,
and don't want to dirty their hands with his blood and pus.
The naked need is revolting.
Have a little pride, man.
How can you lay there so nakedly needy?
Wash your filth away, so you can enter His courts with praise.
But he cannot rise from the dust.
Which traveler will you be?
One of those who skirt around him?
Or one who is willing to reach out and be bloodied?
To get his dirt on you in the effort to wash his dirt from him?
Are you wearing an outer garment you could cover his nakedness with?
Is there water in your canteen?
Give him a drink.
He can't walk for the beatings.
Wrestle him onto your donkey.
Let your feet grow sore and blistered for awhile.
It will slow you down.
It will delay your business.
It will cost you your traveling money.
You may be in greater danger of being attacked yourself,
walking on your feet instead of riding in your saddle.
But that's a brother bleeding there.
He can't pay you for your help.
You've managed to bring him to an inn,
where you spend your evening giving the man a bath.
You've only got one bedroll -- you give it to him.
He can't feed himself, so you feed him like a baby.
He doesn't even notice you, he's so damaged.
You dig into your savings to pay the innkeeper,
to persuade a fellow human to be kind.
Jesus said that they would know we are His by our love for one another.
A love that washes feet.
A love that bandages wounds.
A love that looks for the wanderer, even if it has to interrupt service.
That applies the hot compresses and releases the infections,
and reaches out beyond its own class to heal.