Church Stuff-More or less

Does the church make sense or do we make it too hard for people to come in? I think yes and yes and the task then is to make it easier. Maybe for someone out there, this will be the case. I write as a Lutheran (or, perhaps a Lutherpalian) although I might seem out of the mainstream from time to time. That's okay, isn't it? Let's blog on.

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Location: Northport, Long Island, United States

Contrary to what Google will tell you, I have been blogging for several year, right here. Look for Churchstuff-moreorless. life was a hell of a lot easier when you could talk to someone to get help. Now, you can't do it on the telephone, you can't do it on the internet. Life was easier and made more sense because people actually cared. Now they will screw you as quickly as they will help you. Unfuck the world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Eucharistic Prayer at time of Senseless Tragedy

This morning, I received and email from the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, asking permission to use this prayer in the churches of his diocese tomorrow. I am deeply honored and profoundly moved to think of this possibility. I wrote this prayer following the VA Tech massacre in 2007. It also saddens me that it might be offered.

P: It is truly right and a good and joyful thing that we give you thanks,

at all times and in all places,

in times of gladness and of sadness,

Holy Father, eternal and all-powerful God,

through Christ our Lord.

In him you have brought us through the waters of baptism and

made us one body, the church, the communion of saints.

Therefore with the whole Church on earth,

with angels and all the saints,

we proclaim your glory and with one voice sing (say):

The Sanctus is sung or said.


P: You are indeed holy, O God, the fountain of all holiness.

Over the waters of creation, you brought light from darkness.

Out of the waters of the flood, you brought life from death.

Through the waters of the Red Sea, you brought freedom from bondage.

In the waters of baptism, you bring communion from isolation.

With Rachel, you wail for your children because they are no more.

With Jesus, you weep over the death of Lazarus, his friend.

Like a mother hen, you yearn to comfort and protect your chicks.

In the passion of your Son, you bring all our pains and all our sorrows into your very Self.

We thank you for creation, for redemption, and for your love that will reconcile and rule all in all.


Especially we thank you for the gift of Jesus,

who is one with you and makes us one in him and one in the faith of your Church.

May we, as insufficient as we are,

be strengthened to offer comfort and forgiveness to those most affected by this tragedy.


On the night before he suffered death,

as Jesus gathered his friends around the table he took bread and,

offering thanks to you;

he broke it, and gave it to all of them, saying:

“Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After all of them had eaten, he again took the cup and, offering thanks to you,

he gave it for all to drink, saying:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”

For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

C: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.


P: Therefore, O God, with this bread and cup we remember the incarnation of your Son,

his prayer that we may be one,

his death and resurrection,

his ascension and continual intercession for us,

and his sending of the life giving spirit.

We cry out for the resurrection of our lives and the lives of those untimely taken,

when Christ will come again in beauty and power to share with us the great and promised feast.

C: Amen. Come Lord Jesus.


P: Send your Holy Spirit to bless us and these your gifts of bread and wine,

that the bread we break may be a communion in the body of Christ,

and that the cup we share may be a communion in the blood of Christ.

C: Amen. Come, Holy Spirit,


P: In the waters of baptism you have made us one with him;

give us unity in the faith in this time of inexplicable death,

and enable us to grow in all things in him.

May we hear Jesus say to us as he said to the widow of Nain and to Jairus “Do not weep” and to her son and his daughter “Rise.”

Join our prayers with those of your servants of every time and every place,

and unite them with the ceaseless petitions of our great high priest until he comes as victorious Lord of all.

C: Through him, with him, in him,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

all honor and glory are yours almighty

God, now and forever. Amen.


P: And now with the confidence of children

of God, we boldly pray:

C: Our Father in heaven…


Permission granted for one time local use of the Eucharistic Prayer at time of Senseless Tragedy from "In Remembrance of Me-Eucharistic Prayers for the Lesser Feasts and Festivals and other times in the life of the Church" copyright 2012 The Rev. John F. C. Dornheim

Sunday, February 05, 2012

IS God, then, a girly man?

Rachel Held Evans asked us to respond to some conservative "theologian" named John Piper. I must confess that, until she asked, I had never heard of him. Now, I think that he might be Mark Driscoll's father. Of course, I don't know much about him either. Apparently the man from Mars has been in the news of late as well but where Piper is concerned about gender, Driscoll is more concerned with sex. Of course, neither of them understand their pet subjects very well. To compound things, apparently Piper is enamored with another equally obscure god-talker who was born about 200 years ago.

The problem as I see it is that we can't agree that Scripture was written a long, long time ago and  in a language that was primitive enough to speak to primitive people in a way that they might understand it and believe it. We also can't agree that God, with infinite wisdom, gave us brains to be able to translate Scripture into 21st century mindset. Simply put, just because the Bible was written in a particular cultural idiom is no reason for it to be locked into that. While society and culture changes, God's word does not. However, if we are to understand it, we must frame it or read it in a way that makes sense. As we are much further removed from the cave than people of the First Testament, we are not locked into some kind of Neanderthal/patriarchal society. As we are further removed from a Pauline expectation of an "I'll be right back" Jesus, we have grown in our understanding of gender equality.

Has God changed? No, but the manner in which God is self-revealed has. Where God was once understood as this macho kick-ass celestial being, we now see a God much more in touch with a feminine side. Where once we might have glossed over scriptural references to the Feminine Divine, we now free ourselves to search them out.

Back in the Dark Ages when I was in high school, only boys could put on dresses and be ministers. We were still suffering from a Leave it to Beaver hang over where June was still stuck in the kitchen. So it kinda made sense when the standardized test I took came back and gave me high marks on my feminine side. "Not to worry," said my guidance counselor, "you guys heading to the ministry all do that." I guess we could have done a better job of it because, not long after, we started sharing our priest toys with girls. I don't think that the religious institutions have suffered. If anything, the old dying stick in the mud holdouts are the ones who are suffering. If the good ol' boys club was God pleasing, the new fuller and expressive, gender inclusive one is much more God in ecstacy.

Piper has hung out the "No gurls aloud" sign. I am pretty sure it has God doing some severe head shaking. Fortunately for Piper, the old smiting God is kinder and gentler these days. Things tend to go better when everyone is represented.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"It Gets Better" for the Trevor Project

I recently made an "It gets better" video or the Trevor Project and posted it on youtube. This is what I said.

I am John Dornheim and I am speaking to you from my office on the C W
Post campus of Long Island University where I work as the Protestant
Campus Pastor. I grew up about 35 miles from here in a small suburban
community called Northport. Back then, we didn’t know too much about
bullying. Being New Yorkers, we could be tough on each other but most
of us gave as good as we took.

We also didn’t know much about homosexuality or same sex
relationships. I say this even though, on one side of my house, two
men lived together and on the other, two or three women. As far as I
knew or cared, they were just neighbors.

When I was a freshman in college, I worked with a gay Lutheran pastor.
Due to the times, he was forced to stay in the closet where he
consoled himself with alcohol. Ultimately, that led to his early
death. As my last year in seminary began, a classmate came to me and
said that he was not going to be approved to be a pastor because he
was gay. Our class held a special meeting and told the administration
that if Kevin wasn’t good enough, then none of us were. We all
graduated together in May. Now, in my church, gays, lesbians, and
transgendered folk can be pastors and, if they choose, be married.

Times, I believe, have changed. We are now much more public about our
sexuality or orientation but for many gay and lesbian youth, life can
be very difficult.

Shortly before I started in this position at C. W. Post, a young man,
Tyler Clemente, took his own life in New Jersey. It was one of many
such events that took place last year and I believe it was what led to
the creation of this “It gets better project.” Another young man,
Jamey Rodemeyer, posted his own video this past May. At 14, he had
been the subject of bullying for several years. For a few minutes at
least, Jamey believed that it would get better. Not too long ago,
Jamey ended his life.

If you are watching this video because you are being bullied, do not
suffer in silence. Tell someone about it. Tell your friends. You do
have friends and they do care. If it is happening at school, tell your
favorite teacher, guidance counselor and principal. Tell your family
even if it means also telling them that you are gay. Tell your
clergyperson, many of us are supportive even if we don’t talk about it
very much. If it is hard for you to tell others, bring a friend with
you. But whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

Does your school have a GSA, a gay straight alliance? If so, join it.
If not, start it. You will find that there are both gay and straight
students willing to work together. There are several websites that
will help you, maybe even a local organization for lgbt youth like

If you are being cyber bullied on places like Facebook, Formspring or
Twitter, report that person. Block that person. Do not respond to
them. It will only encourage them.

Bullying is not about you, it is about the bully and when they realize
that you are stronger than they are, they will stop. And you are
stronger than they are. Unfortunately, it won’t change them, they will
look for someone else. That is why it is so important to tell others
about the bullying, about the bullies. With every person who stands
up, there is one less target.

I wish that we could change things in life as easy as we turn on a
light switch. I wish that I could tell you that it will get better
today or tomorrow or next week. Change takes time but I believe in my
heart of hearts that things do get better, things will get better. Be
patient. Be strong. Be whatever you have to be to get through this but
just don’t be alone. Together we can make a difference. Together we
will conquer those who bully and hate. Together we will build a world
in which you will flourish and grow. It is not too late.

You are in this world for a reason. You may not yet know what that
reason is, but there is one. Whatever you do with your life is
important. It may seem insignificant but it is important that you do
it because no one else will.

If you need someone to talk to, please call the Trevor Project at 1
866 488 7386. Someone is there 24 hours a day, seven days a week to
talk with you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My sermon for 09/11/11

It was a Tuesday morning much like so many before it. 8:30 on the second Tuesday and I was getting in my car to drive down to Washington, to the National cathedral for my monthly tour as chaplain of the day. I slipped a cd into the player and headed off. My routine was to listen to music for a half hour and then turn on a DC Sports talk show as I got in range, usually around 495. As I drove, I noticed smoke in the distance, an unusual sight to be sure. A column of smoke billowing up and flowing to the south towards Virginia. There would be no sports talk that morning as I realized the smoke that I was seeing was coming from the Pentagon and the radio station alerted to me to the events that were unfolding. Back in NY, the quiet of the morning had been shattered by a passenger airline that had crashed into the World Trade Center, then another, then the Pentagon. The streets of DC were eerily empty as though time was standing still. The sidewalks were devoid of the usual traffic, outdoor cafes vacant, people were nowhere to be seen. The grounds of the Cathedral likewise as I pulled in. The only people that I would see were outside the Diocesan office-my verger, a surgeon, Dr. Judith Greene, and my Episcopal bishop, Jane Holmes Dixon, talking. I pulled into the nearest parking spot and got out of my car. What should we do, in light of the events which were still unfolding? Close the cathedral or keep it open. My thoughts were that it needed to be open, that people would come, people would come to find solace and offer their prayers. A Christian-Muslim dialog was scheduled for that day and there was some thought that the building might be yet another target and it would be best to shut it down. So, I turned the car around and headed home, listening to the news reports. A fourth plane had gone down in a rural field in western Pennsylvania, a field that I had driven past each Sunday for four or five months on my way to church. I dialed a colleague there on my mobile and we talked for a while. When I arrived back at the parsonage, my then wife and nine year old daughter were sitting, staring at the television as the scenes were played over and over again as though on an endless, continuous tape. The horrific scenes of the planes, the crashes, the fires, people choosing to leap to their deaths rather than be burned alive. Commentators speculating as to the cause. I didn’t need to watch for very long for the pictures to be burned indelibly into my memory. The reasons behind the catastrophes were insignificant, or so I thought. It was a tragedy of proportions that I had never experienced. I went to the church.

When people of faith experience such events, many begin to ask “where was God that such could happen on God’s watch?” as though God is some kind of cosmic puppeteer who controls all of the events of our world and lives. It doesn’t, God doesn’t, work that way. Creator though God be, Creation was left to our caretaking. Truth be told, we’ve never quite lived up to expectations. Nonetheless, it is a question that has been asked for as long as there has been speech. It is asked by people of faith who have suffered loss, sometimes a tremendous loss, sometimes a less significant loss. It is asked by them because they see God as some sort of Divine Protector and they are directing their words to that God. It is also a question asked by people of little or no faith.

"Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing...
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes.
And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God's sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
"Where He is? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..."
That night, the soup tasted of corpses."

So writes Eli Wiesel of his concentration camp experiences in his epic “Night.” For those who question God’s presence (or absence) in times of trouble, Wiesel reminds us that God IS there in the midst of suffering. God, though unseen, is present. Always and in all ways. Truly, there is no place where God is not. God is with us in our joys and gladness, God is with us in our sorrows and sadness. God rejoices with us and God weeps with us. God walks with us into the following days that may not be as joyous or sad. God leads us into our futures, ever confident that the best is yet to come and that the joy or sorrow that we feel today will be just a memory. Memories, happy or sad, which make us who we are today. Do we remember to thank those responsible for our happiness and do we remember to forgive those who caused us sadness?

Since that first 9/11, we have been placed in the position of never being able to forget. The initial pictures, the continual reminding, all these are indelibly burned into our memory as surely as those buildings and airplanes burned on that day. Another question for us to ponder is “what do we do with those memories?” Happy memories enable us to enjoy present and future happiness’. They give us strength for the day, strength for the days ahead regardless of how we might be feeling. They remind us of good times and enable us to face the future with optimism. Sad, tragic memories often have the opposite effect. They may immobile us. They may lead us to view others with suspicion. They may cause us to withdraw. Left on their own, we see only a dark, dismal future. Yet, when coupled with the happy memories, we see that life is worth living, that the future is one of promise and that even in the worst of times, there will be another better day.

So, we will never, we can never forget that day. There are, however, those who will also say that we can never forgive. Surely, that must sadden God as much as those events we remember today.

When a friend asks us to join them on an endeavor, if we know and trust that friend, we look forward to the opportunity. After all, they’ve rarely let us down in the past. For those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus, those of us who claim to know and trust Jesus, this isn’t always the case. We forget that Jesus never told us it would be fun, it would never be easy. One of the hardest things that Jesus asks of us is to forgive. And, oh, does he tell us to forgive. He tells us to forgive our friends when they slight us, he tells us to forgive our enemies when they hurt us, he tells us to forgive all of the people in between. Yet, each of us harbor those hurts inside of which we have failed to forgive. It is often oh so hard to forgive. The hardest part of remembering the events of this day ten years ago is to forgive but forgive we must. If we are to remember, if we are to survive, we must forgive. In our remembrance, let us be about the business of not building more walls, but of building more bridges. Let us forgive our past hurts, let us look at strangers not as enemies but as friends who we’ve not yet met. Let us look to the future with hope and not fear, knowing that God has been with us in all of our joys and sorrows, and will be there in those yet to come. Amen

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Day the Music Died

There are few dates from my youth that I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. Most people can tell you where they were when JFK was killed-I was sitting in science class though I don’t remember if it was 7th or 8th grade.

I am (or try to be) a restorer of people and things. July 16, 1981. I was in my garage working on the first piece of furniture (An oak dresser that I still use) I ever refinished. Working alone, I usually have a radio on for companionship. A news bulletin interrupted the normal programming. On the Long Island expressway, near Jericho, the exit I often use these days when I go to work, Harry Chapin had been driving his VW in the fast lane when it started crapping out and he started to move to the right that he might get to the shoulder when a truck rear ended him, killing him instantly, or so I hope. Harry would have been 39 that December.

Harry, for those who did/do not know him was not just an “Old Folkie.” Harry was an ambassador. He believed in this world and he believed in the people who inhabit it. While he made his living writing songs and singing them whenever he had the chance, Harry was committed to ending world hunger. Hungry people don’t just live in foreign lands, they live here, too. You just don’t see them on the late night commercials. Here, on Long Island, little was being done to resolve the problem and Harry knew it. So, he went out and got a grant for $50,000 and World Hunger Year and Long Island Cares were born. They still exist today because Harry died that day on the Long Island Expressway. I never knew Harry all that well. For most of his career, I was off in college somewhere listening to “Taxi” or “Circle” or “WOLD.” But, I am still convinced today that the Harry I did know would have ended world hunger once and for all. I mean that—world hunger. once and for all. Harry would have found a way.

If you ever saw Harry on the streets of Huntington, you’d have thought that he was the mayor. Not that Huntington has a mayor. IF Huntington HAD a mayor, it could have been Harry. If he had woken up one morning and announced “I’m the Mayor,” he would have been. No one would have argued. Everyone would have applauded. But the only applause Harry heard (or wanted to hear) was when he was onstage.

They say suburbanites are the stiff upper lipped/stone faced type. Perhaps there is some truth to that for we live where we do because, well, because we don’t want to be on top of our neighbors. Often, we really don’t want to have much to do with them either. But, Harry was a different sort of subrubanite. He seemed to treat everyone as his neighbor, in the the best definition of the word, a stranger was a friend he’d not yet met. If you saw him on the street, he’d always have a big smile on his face, greeting everyone he passed by. There are times still, on Main Street, just outside of Marsh’s Men Store, where I think I see him yet. Once you met Harry you’d never forget him.

I know that Harry lives on. Not just in his brother Tom’s or daughter Jen’s music, but in the hearts of those who met or knew him and in the lives of those who still work for Long Island Cares. Harry’s dream of eradicating world hunger unfortunately lives on, if only out of necessity. A sad, sad necessity.

Harry once (and probably more than once) said, “Our lives are to be used and thus to be lived as fully as possible, and truly it seems that we are never so alive as when we concern ourselves with other people.” Before he tragically died, Harry was never so alive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


For the past few weeks, many of the eyes of the nation have been focused on New York as our elected officials have danced around the issue of same sex marriage. While I have been an advocate for this endeavor for the past eight or nine years, it seems like much of my time has been consumed arguing for this change as well as lobbying our state senators to affirm Governor Cuomo’s bill. With other volunteers in the Human Rights Campaign, we have gathered tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of signatures which have been presented in Albany. I have been accused of being unfamiliar with the Scriptures, of following a different God, and consigned to the depths of hell when I die. I am fairly certain that the first two claims are in error. As for the third, I will depend on the mercy of God. I know that when I stand before the Judgment Throne, I will prefer to be judged for having been too generous with God’s mercy than too stingy. I would like to think that I have been a faithful servant.

Throughout the centuries, the Church has often had to atone for her past mistakes. Throughout those same centuries, much of the Church has held to the position that homosexuality is contrary to God’s will. This position is based upon a narrow reading of eight passages in Scripture. A narrow, superficial, and erroneous reading of passages that have nothing to do with people who are, by their nature, by their very Godly creation, homosexual. The Church has also depended upon the interpretations of these passages by its previous theologians-the early Church fathers and continuing through the ages. The Church has erred and many of us have come to the conclusion that it is time to atone for this misinterpretation and the way that it has been used against our homosexual brothers and sisters. It should be noted that I say this in all humility.

As fervently as we believe this, there are those who hold, most vociferously, to the opposite, historical, traditional understanding. I believe that what grieves me the most about this is that many in the GLBT community will hear their words and conclude that there is no place for the Church in their lives. I know that participation in a faith community is not for everybody but if someone chooses to absent him or herself from these communities, I hope that it is not because they feel unwanted, unloved by those who claim to follow an all loving, all merciful, all welcoming God. As much as I am telling my senators to pass this legislation, I am also telling my fellow gay and lesbian citizens, do not give up on us. More and more Christian denominations in this country are speaking up. More and more denominations are intentionally welcoming the gay community into their midst, even to the point of recognizing and accepting their gay clergy, some who are partnered, some who are single. Yet, many of our politicians only hear one voice, believe that the Church is united in the historic, traditional understanding that homosexuals are condemned by God and same sex marriage will bring about the ultimate destruction of that sacred institution. None of this is true.

Many claim that there is an historic, Biblical model of marriage. There is not such a model. Marriage is something that has changed over the centuries, perhaps from the very beginning of time. If there is a threat to this sacred institution, it is primarily evident in the fact that we heterosexuals haven’t taken it as seriously as we should have. That does not give us the right to deny it to those who might do better.

Throughout the years, homosexuals have been forced by the Church to deny or repress their sexuality. There is no doubt that many who are outspoken against homosexuality and same sex marriage are some of these same people who continue to deny or repress their own sexuality. On the other hand, some of us do not fear homosexuality. We are comfortable and confident in our own sexuality. We have adjusted as gays and lesbians have become more public. We have recognized that it has not meant the end of our society.

I presently live in the same conservative suburban Long Island community in which I grew up. As a high school student, I was no different from many of my peers. A classmate who was more of an art student than he was a jock was just a faggot to the rest of us. Whether he was gay or not, we never knew. We were just confident that he was. So, I am also atoning for my own sins. Even though I knew gays and lesbians most of my life, Billy was just a fag, someone less than me, someone different from me, someone I definitely didn’t want to be. In college, three men tried to make advances towards me. One was a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor, one was a classmate, and the other picked me up when I was hitchhiking in Chicago. I had matured enough by then to merely say, “no thank you.” In the subsequent years, I stood up for gay classmates in seminary, I was one of the early signatories for Equality Maryland, even to the point of officiating at one same sex marriage. At that time, I told the two women that while the ceremony was not recognized by the state, I was confident that it was blessed by God. Over the years, I have been blessed to have worked with gay pastors, some partnered, some single. I am tremendously proud that my church now recognizes them as their peers had for several years.

It was frustrating to lose the battle in Maryland and equally frustrating to watch them lose again this past year. I write this with mixed emotions because we could just as easily lose this year in New York as we could win. We might not even see it voted upon this week. If marriage equality does not become a reality in New York this year, we will be back. We will be back with a vengeance. We owe it to those who we have betrayed all these years, all who the Church has despised and rejected. I will be back because I owe it to Billy for calling him a faggot. I will be back because I owe it to Richard who died a broken, alcoholic pastor consigned to living his life in the closet, for Jeffrey, my classmate, who just wanted to know love, and even for that unnamed motorist who thought I’d trick him out. I owe it to the college students with whom I minister these days at C. W. Post. But, most of all, I owe it to my children and (future) grandchildren who deserve to be left with a better, more loving society.

I will be back because it is the right and Godly thing for me to do. But, honestly, I really believe that God will do what I have not been able to do-soften the heart of one more state senator and if I come back, it will be to right some other wrong.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

When Jesus came to dinner

Rachel inquired about Amish folklore. I once told this story in a sermon back in PA but I think it had  an Appalachian source back then. I think that the story also took place at the woman's house with several different guests knocking on her door.

Ruth looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter one more time...
Dear Ruth,
I'm going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I'd like to stop by for a visit.
Love Always,

Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. "Why would the Lord want to visit me? I'm nobody special. I don't have anything to offer."
With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. "Oh my goodness, I really don't have anything to offer. I'll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner."
She reached for her purse and counted out its contents. Seven dollars and forty cents. "Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least." She threw on her coat and hurried out the door.
A loaf of  bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk...leaving Ruth with a grand total of twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless, she felt satisfied as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.
"Hey lady, can you help us, lady?" Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she hadn't even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags.
"Look lady, I ain't got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it's getting cold and we're getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we'd really appreciate it."
Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad and, frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to. "Sir, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I'm having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him."
"Yeah, well, OK lady, I understand. Thanks anyway." The man put his arm around the woman's shoulders, turned and headed back into the alley.
As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart. "Sir, wait!" The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. "Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure out something else to serve my guest." She handed the man her grocery bag.
"Thank you lady. Thank you very much!" "Yes, thank you!" It was the man's wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering.
"You know, I've got another coat at home. Here, why don't you take this one." Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman's shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street . . .without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest. "Thank you lady! Thank you very much!"
Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door, and worried too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn't have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox. "That's odd. The mailman doesn't usually come twice in one day." She took the envelope out of the box and opened it.
Dear Ruth,
It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you too, for the beautiful coat.
Love Always,

The air was still cold, but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.