I took my kids to Waffle House the other day. It’s a rare ‘treat’ – though many who know what Waffle House is wouldn’t use it and treat in neighboring sentences. But for my kids, leaving the house is kind of a treat, let alone being able to go out and eat a syrup saturated waffle that is bigger than their head.
We went on a weekday morning. Probably around 9:30. Plans had changed for Darian, we had access to our van, and I was feeling some cabin fever, so off we went.
We sat down in one of the corner booths. Lucky for me, it was next to the bar seating where all of the regulars sit. Our waitress was nice; my four-year-old daughter was especially fond her blue eyeshadow.
One regular in particular, a Santa type – but of a southern variety, with a drawl and coveralls – was a magnet for all of the staff. One by one, as they were making their rounds, they’d swing wide of their tables and take a few minutes to chat with him. During one of these encounters, a young waitress, probably in her mid-twenties, was letting loose her current life situation to quiet, listening Southern Santa. everything from how she needs to get to bed earlier, to childcare, to how she’s trying to get her laptop fixed because the screen is cracked and it’s making it difficult to do her homework. In a matter of a couple minutes she’d unloaded her issues and was back at filling coffees and wiping down tables.
The next time her turn was up for a conference with Southern Santa, it was his turn to talk. He asked about where she was planning on taking the computer, how much it would cost, whether it was worth it to try and get it fixed or whether she should just get a new one. The barrage of questions was surprising, since he hadn’t talked much up to this point. But he was relentless; when she brought up the expenses, he wouldn’t have it. He’d help her get one, or help her get hers fixed – but it had to be a priority. It had to get done.
I started wondering about Southern Santa – what had he done for a living; did he still work? Was he a weirdo? As if answer to my pondering, a second regular, who had been there the whole time reading the newspaper and drinking coffee, turned to Southern Santa and started asking SS about his health – clearly a continued conversation from a day or two ago. SS filled him in briefly, then they both went back their coffee.
A few minutes later, an older gal came and sat down next to Southern Santa. She was about to start her shift. It turns out she was a regular here too, just on the other side of the counter. It was Ms. Claus.
This occurrence keeps bubbling up to my conscious. along with it is this word Greek word: ekklésia. It means gathering. It’s also translated church. Now, I didn’t witness any teaching, preaching, singing of hymns or spiritual songs at the diner, but I did witness someone offering, not only a listening ear, but also a helping hand. Which brought to my mind another occasion – one that turned a gathering into a church.
And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one [of them] claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.Acts 4:32
This is what defined a group of people who didn’t have any kind social bond; they were racially diverse, diverse in gender, diverse in social status. What bound them together was their common belief that a poor Jewish teacher, from a Podunk town in the Judean providence of Rome, had actually turned out to be the creator God of the universe, who came to sacrifice his life in order to save the world. That’s what they held in common, and they believed it so strongly, that in turn, they held everything of theirs in common.
One last thing. That word common; That’s koinos in Greek. It means common – but it can also mean dirty; unclean. The idea is that it’s too common; that’s in insignificant; unimportant. Just think of public restrooms. That’s Jesus’ group, that’s his assembly. I think that I went to church at Waffle House on a weekday with my kids.