I grew up on a 40 acre farm just outside of Strafford, Missouri. My parents both worked full -time as professors at Southwest Missouri State University, so any attempt at having cows, keeping chickens, or raising pigs soon failed. Looking back, I learned (at least) two very important things during my high school years on Farm Road 94. First, bucking hay is the best worst job I ever worked. A full morning of throwing bales in the Missouri summer heat and humidity meant I gained twenty dollars and lost five pounds. Regardless, I was thankful for the work, the money, and the lessons learned in the Ozark hills. The second thing I discovered was that you wave to your neighbors when you pass them on the street. It did not need to be a full wave; a simple two fingers raised off the steering wheel would suffice. Moreover, you did not need to know the person passing in the other direction; they waved no matter what. If the wave was not returned, you just assumed the stranger was not from around here.
As I have gotten older, I think there must be an invisible Mason-Dixon line between places that wave and those that do not. What plays in Peoria does not fly in New Jersey. I spent several years fighting the urge to wave to folks passing by, but it never really took. You might wonder why I am waxing nostalgic about something as trivial as a two–finger salute to passing motorists. It might be because I had the revelation this weekend that folks in Ballwin and West County are not wavers. Most folks on the street do not make eye contact and drivers passing are too focused on the road (or their phone) to look up or over.
I made a decision yesterday to keep on waving, keep on making eye contact, and keep saying hello. I know this will probably reveal that I am not from around here, but I think that is the point in doing things differently. Jesus told us to be salt, light, and yeast, and as we know, a little bit of each can go a long way to making a big difference.
God charges all of us to practice the ministry of hospitality, and while a simple wave or hello won’t get the job done, it is the potential start of something much greater. I encourage you to practice this at St. Mark over the weekend and take it to the streets the rest of the week. The Lord is not calling us to be the biggest church, but I believe God is calling us to be the most welcoming.
In Hope and Confidence,