From time to time local businesses draw up special promotions to show their appreciation for those working in the school systems. My wife is a special education teacher in our local public-school system. She came home a few weeks ago and said, “You will never believe what I found in the teacher lounge today?!” I had no idea because over the past few years she has gotten some pretty good perks.
Then she showed me a small stack of coupons that she got from Speedway. No purchase necessary free Speedy Freeze, Pop or Tea coupons. All I could say is, “Wow!” Anyone that knows me knows exactly how much I love Coke Zero. I quickly counted the number of coupons and the number of days till the coupon expired. It was close and I was good with that. That meant that I would get a free 44 ounce Coke Zero with a shot of vanilla, cherry, or cherry and vanilla flavoring on almost a daily basis for the rest of the month.
Don’t judge me! You have your guilty pleasures too.
The only drawback was the fact that the coupon said it was only good at one specific Speedway in the Canton area. No big thing. I don’t mind going out of my way a bit for a free 44 ounce Coke Zero.
On my first time to Speedway I passed a small white church building with a bright red front door. It sat on the corner of an intersection overlooking a local cemetery. I had driven by this little Lutheran church hundreds of times in my life. In my 43 years of living in this community, I had only been in this church one time and it wasn’t for a church service. It was for a rummage sale. Most times that I drive by I just admire the old building if I even paid attention to it all.
This time however I was drawn to the church sign that was advertising their upcoming Maundy Thursday Service on April 18th at 11:00 am. I don’t know why I was drawn to it. I had never attended a Maundy Thursday service before. April 18th was just a few days away. After I pulled up to Speedway which was only a few blocks away I checked my calendar of appointments for April 18th. It was clear. For some odd reason, I felt compelled to write down “Attend Maundy Thursday Service at 11:00 am on April 18th” on my calendar.
For the next few days, I continued to think about attending. Maybe it was the additional trips to Speedway that I took as I drove by this church.
Finally, Thursday, April 18th rolled around. I was still on the fence about attending this 11:00 am Maundy Thursday service. Again, feeling compelled for some unexplainable reason, I got dressed up for this church service and drove there. To my surprise, there were only 5 other cars in the parking lot. I sat in my car in the parking lot thinking the service must have been canceled. Could there really be this few people attending? I got scared and decided I was going to leave. As I turned my car back on, I saw the Pastor of the church walk out of those bright red doors in full pastoral clergy robes. We locked eyes and I knew I had no choice but to turn off the car and walk in. I couldn’t possibly drive away. What if he was looking around to see if anyone was coming to this service or not?
Gulp. I walked in and I saw that I was not alone. There were five other people already in the worship center. It was me and five little old ladies in the service.
The service was much more traditional than I am used to and took me immediately out of my comfort zone. I was watching my program closely to be sure that I stood up and sat down at the right times. I made sure that I was doing all the responsive reading correctly.
During the Homily (Sermon) I was set at ease as the pastor began to speak about Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen. These are two of my favorite authors! He talked about church leaders serving those with disabilities as a modern-day example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. At this moment I realized why the Holy Spirit was compelling me to come. It just took the Holy Spirit using a Speedway coupon to get me to change my typical routine. Imagine that, the Holy Spirit using Speedway 44-ounce Coke Zero to achieve the building up of His Kingdom!
At the close of service, we were all invited to kneel together at the front of the worship center for communion. I nearly choked on the juice as I didn’t expect it to be “real wine.” The alcoholic communion no doubt took me for a surprise.
We all lined up to greet the Pastor on our way out the door. I could feel all eyes on me as I stood out among the ever so small crowd as an outsider. The pastor graciously thanked me for coming and enquired as to who I was.
After I introduced myself as someone who worked for Ability Ministry, a national non-profit that helps churches start or advance disability ministries, his eyes lit up. He immediately asked me if I had a business card. As I handed him my card he said, “I’m taking some time off after Easter, but you can expect me to call as soon as I get back in the office.” The feeling that this was a divine appointment was mutually shared.
As I type up this blog, I marvel at the fact that God can use a free Speedway coupon in a public-school teacher lounge to connect a small Lutheran church with a heart for serving people with disabilities to our organization. Is there anything that God cannot do? The obvious answer is no if we are willing to be obedient to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
My encouragement to you today is to be open to that unexplainable urge you feel from time to time. Not necessarily the urge to get a 44-ounce Coke Zero! I truly believe that God places opportunities before us daily if we are willing to recognize them.