What to Say?

On Sunday mornings I get to the church between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.  Last Sunday around 9:00 a young man showed up.  He came into my study and began to pour his heart out.  He’d slept under a bridge the night before, he said.  He’d been staying with some friends, but they were all hooked on crack, and had kicked him out after taking all his belongings.  He had no family save for a 94-year-old grandfather who lived in Miami.  What was he to do?

Then he broke down in tears.

As a downtown pastor I get this kind of visit often.  Sometimes I am able to offer some help by way of referral to a local agency.  Sometimes I can give some small monetary gift.  Sometimes, but only rarely, I can buy a bus ticket.  And I can pray.

I know full well that all the stories I hear might not be true, but I do my best to listen.  I’m not a social worker or an ATM machine, but I am a Christian pastor.  Listening and praying is what I’m called to do.

After praying with him, I took the young man down to the kitchen and turned him over to Julia, our Sunday morning housekeeper. She gave him breakfast.  About 30 minutes later he came back to my study.  By this time I was needing to concentrate on worship preparation.  I explained that he was welcome to come to worship and to stay for the lunch that we host every Sunday for homeless people.

“I have a session meeting right after worship, but after that, we can talk.”  I had already checked the balance in the Minister’s Discretionary Fund and was prepared to buy the young man a bus ticket.

“I’ll wait for you,” he promised.

After the session meeting the young man was nowhere to be found.  I wasn’t really surprised, but I was disappointed.

In the afternoon I made some hospital visits and when I got home, I reached in my briefcase for my laptop computer. Of course you’ve already guessed: It wasn’t there.

About a year ago the Property Council installed security cameras in the Education Building. Along with other downtown churches and businesses, we had a rash of petty thefts and felt we needed to help the police figure out who the culprit might be.  I’d forgotten all about those cameras.

Sure enough, on Monday morning I pulled up the video footage for Sunday morning.  It shows the young man entering the church office (which wasn’t locked at the time) not wearing his jacket and coming out about five minutes later.  As he enters the camera’s frame, he’s putting on his jacket.  He looks around carefully and casually exits the Education  building.

The time is 10:45 a.m. Worship is just beginning in the sanctuary.

Apple computers have an app called “Find My I-Phone.”  It also works for Macbooks.  It allows the owner to locate a phone, Ipad, or laptop on a map.  A little circle shows on the screen shows the location of your device.  If you want, you can tell Apple to lock your hard drive or even wipe it clean as soon as it goes online.

With the app comes another option.  You can leave a message that will appear on your stolen laptop’s screen.  So far my purloined computer hasn’t gone online, but when it does it will become a very expensive brick that will be of no use to its new owner.  In addition, a message will appear.

O.K.  I’m not going to tell you what the message is.

My question is this: If this happened to you, what message would you leave?