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  • The temporary sign above the door of the Redemption in Christ church said: “Lost Sheep Welcome!” With Sunday services at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and Noon, Sunday night service at 8 p.m.,Wednesday night prayer meeting at 7 p.m. and Saturday night service beginning at 8 p.m., there were ample opportunities for any sheep – lost or otherwise – to come to Jesus.

    The “Lost Sheep Welcome” sign was 8 feet tall and 30 feet wide and consisted of navy blue letters over a glossy white background. It was the result of the aggressive outreach (some older congregants called it a sales campaign) strategy hatched by the future deacon’s committee of the Redemption in Christ church.

    These future leaders of the congregation were known for their modern ways such as using mobile marketing, social networking and even an elaborate CRM program to find new members. It was as if the unequivocal love of God and trust in his mysterious ways were not enough to keep the pews filled. Many who had praised His holy name within the confines of this house of worship were personally offended that their religion had to be sold to anyone.

    Sunday morning found a group of homeless men who took shelter and fueled their demons with cheap wine beneath the I30 underpass, just around the corner from the church, hung over to the point of unconsciousness. For reasons that remain a mystery, Cap Henry (U.S. Army retired), a member of this homeless group, decided he’d find out where all the hollering was coming from.

    As he walked toward the sound of music, the Captain was more than a little shaky, cotton-mouthed, hungry and stinking of wine, smoke, urine and gasoline fumes. Every hair on his greasy head ached. The dry heaves had finally passed and the Harvard Crimson t-shirt that he’d found in the dumpster – pockmarked with holes from the cigarettes that kept tumbling out of his mouth when he nodded off – was drenched with sweat.

    As he approached the church, the full-gospel choir in four part harmony and accompanied by piano, Hammond B3 organ, drums, bass, guitar and full horn section could be heard three blocks away!

    I’ve got the Lord on the line
    And he’s asking for you.
    Asking for you.
    And you know it’s true.

    I’ve got the Lord on the line
    And he’s asking for you,
    But He won’t be holding for long*

    Everybody in the sanctuary was alive with the love of Jesus. Voices were lifted, tears of joy were flowing, many were dancing, some were speaking in tongues and more than a few were considering making a lifelong commitment to Him.

    As he walked into the church, Capn’ Henry grimaced at the sheer auditory and visual explosion. The cheap Thunderbird wine consumed a few hours earlier, was having its revenge now and in spite of these surroundings, he was feeling god-awful.

    The highly decorated former military man, former Sunday school teacher in his small hometown church and now homeless man living in a box under the highway was about see if the sentiments of the temporary sign were real or merely marketing hoopla. As he stepped into the cavernous sanctuary the energy of the choir, enraptured by the Holy Spirit exploded again.

    The evil is tempting
    The Sirens are loud.
    Our babies are crying
    The bankers are proud.

    And still Jesus loves us
    No money is allowed
    He gave us a pocket full of change.

    Immediately after the crescendo of the choir culminated in a perfectly executed musical stinger followed by an explosion of “Amens” from dozens of spiritually charged worshipers, Captain Henry crumpled to the floor and, in the process, knocked over and destroyed the “Welcome” sign and the table displaying church bulletins which were stationed near the front doors.

    In the silence and shock that followed, a group of worshippers gathered around Capn’ Henry and called for brother Jameson, whose life outside the church included his very successful medical practice.

    “He’s dead, doc” somebody said.

    “Let me take a look,” Jameson said.

    Upon closer examination, the good doctor opined, “He’s not dead. He’s drunk. And he needs a shower and probably some food.”

    At that moment Cap Henry opened his bloodshot eyes and muttered, “Is this where the lost sheep are found?”

    Somebody in the crowd shouted “Amen” and not missing a beat, the pianist for full-gospel choir began playing the opening chords to “Amazing Grace.”

    *“I’ve Got the Lord on the Line” © 2011 by Ruggiero/Young used with permission
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