This morning I had occasion to stop off at Tim Hortons (a major Canadian chain of coffee shops) to get something for breakfast. Since I wasn’t in a huge hurry, I decided to park and go inside to get my food rather than go through the drive through. While inside I noticed that the place was packed with groups of people gathered together to share their stories, experiences and plans along with their coffee and donuts. With my breakfast sandwich in hand I headed back to my car and started to eat. As I ate I watched a steady stream of people heading in and out of the shop.
There was a long line of people in their cars who were in too much of a hurry to park and go into the shop. Along with that group I saw the following walking across the driveway and headed into the shop; a pair of ambulance drivers, several female members of a road crew with their work boots and caution vests, a young woman with hair of various colours and tattoos, men I’m suits and ties, women in business dress, women pushing children in strollers, and a man with a large bag who was digging to get returnable bottles from the garbage cans.
There is, perhaps sadly, no other type of circumstance that would have this broad a cross-section of our population coming together in one place. Do we see this variety of humanity headed to the doors of our churches on Sunday mornings? I realize that out of work clothes of whatever type we may not know what people do in the rest of their lives. Would someone in steel toed work boots, jeans and t-shirt feel comfortable in our churches or would stares and comments indicate to them that they shouldn’t be there? How many of our churches would welcome the man who was digging in the garbage can?
The lyrics of the song from which I took the title of this entry speaks to this issue and to the fact that while we may be inclined to reject and exclude, Jesus would never do so.
Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear thy voice, O Son of man.
In haunts of wretchedness and need,
On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed,
We catch the vision of thy tears.
From tender childhood’s helplessness,
From woman’s grief, man’s burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
Thy heart hath never known recoil.
The cup of water given for thee
Stills holds the freshness of thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see
The sweet compassion of thy face.
O Master, from the mountain side,
Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
Among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city’s streets again;
Till sons of men shall learn thy love,
And follow where thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from thy heaven above,
Shall come the City of our God.