the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Highway Travellers

As you may know, if you read my profile, I live in a little town called Sharpsburg. I don't actually live in town, but on a rural route that is based out of Sharpsburg, so my mailing address is Sharpsburg. I had to go to Newnan yesterday. Newnan is the largest town near us and is the county seat of Coweta County. The easiest way to get there from my home is to get on I-85 and go South for one exit, or about 5 miles. So that is the way I went.

When I got off at the exit, I saw on the side of the ramp, a couple of highway travellers. He was older, she was younger. I knew their van had been there for days because it had one of those colored stickers that the highway patrol puts on the back window to tag how long the car has been there.

When I say the guy was older, I mean he could have been about 30, give or take. He was standing next to the traffic holding a makeshift sign that read "DOWN ON LUCK, PLEASE HELP." He was gladly taking handouts from passing motorists.

When I say she was younger, I mean she could have been 18, but she looked younger. I have to watch myself about age in the young. The older I get the younger other people look. But I'm sure she was not older than 18.

Even though the sun was shining, it was cold. And the wind was blowing briskly. The young woman sat on the ground behind the van huddled up with a shawl around her trying to stay warm. It chilled me to the bone to see them there in that condition.

I thought about another couple. He was older and she was younger. They too were highway travellers on their way to Bethlehem from Nazareth. They too were down on their luck. Instead of a van they had a donkey to ride on. By donkey it can take several days to get to Bethlehem from Nazareth. What about the nights? I guess they slept by the side of the road.

What about riding on a donkey! What about being pregnant and riding on a donkey! She, the younger, was at the end of her term. Giving birth was eminent. All over, people were making their way to their place of birth to register for the census.

Because she was pregnant, they travelled slowly. Slower than the others. By the time they got to Bethlehem, all the rooms were taken. They had to spend the night in a barn.

I said that seeing this couple on the side of the road made me think of Joseph and Mary. I was going to a take-out restaurant to get lunch for my wife and myself. I thought about getting them some lunch. I thought about how warm my truck was compared to how cold they must be.

I thought about it. I reached in my wallet and pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to the man as I drove by. I said something like "God bless you, my son," and drove off.

I thought about it. I have never thought of myself as a Pharisee before. But picking up strangers is dangerous. Besides that, I was expected back at home before too long...Oh, I have a list of excuses.

I have no idea what happened to them. I have no idea where they were going. The van was pointed south. A good direction to be going in this weather. I know where I was headed...on my knees to ask forgiveness. "In as much as you did it not to one of the least of these, my bretheren..." Well, at least I have a nice warm house in which to make my confession.


Blogger Claire Joy said...

I so can relate to this. I wish I couldn't. I travel by subway a lot in NYC, and the people in need are everywhere. I have smiled, said "God bless" and passed them by, thinking… was this one of the ones, Lord? one of the times I saw you and did not feed you?

12/19/2005 12:25 PM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

Okay, you got me on this one, too. And I KNOW as a single woman I can NOT be picking people up on the side of the road. I KNOW that. I just pray that this is one of the times where God lets me lean towards safety instead of stepping out in faith.

12/20/2005 2:48 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice said...

Wow. Yep, I can relate. I used to live in NYC and the number of people asking for money was overwhelming. But it was impossible to feel right, living in a world where it was possible for people to be left stranded in their circumstances.

Just a few weeks ago I was approached in my work parking lot by a man needing a ride. He seemed on the up and up, but of course I was immediately alarmed--how could I a woman alone give a strange man a ride? Luckily, I was able to bring him into my workplace, and a man there talked to him and gave him the lift he needed. I shouldn't say 'luckily' because I think God provided for this man. It's awful to be afraid to help.

12/21/2005 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Lorna said...


12/22/2005 8:02 AM  
Blogger curious servant said...

When I was in my early twenties I was out on the road a lot. Not begging, just traveling. I'd go thousands of miles with no more than $5. Just adventuring.

I'm suspicious of the travelers on the road now.

not sure I would have done any differently.

12/23/2005 5:14 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

Between 1963 and 1967, I traveled between Atlanta, where I lived, and Waco, where I went to college. We were not the wealthiest family around and it really put my folks back to pay the tuition, buy the books and pay for room and board. My dad worked for a major airline and could get me a standby pass for the Atlanta-Dallas leg of the trip. But I was on my own from Dallas to Waco, a distance of about 100 miles. I hitch-hiked most of the time. In fact, I have fond memories of being picked up near the airport by the Dallas police and dropped off at the city limits on the route to Waco.

Those days are gone.

12/23/2005 11:00 PM  

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