It's not his real name, but this is a true story.
One morning I was at home and in a funk. I asked a friend to pray that I'd be really open and receptive to God, that I'd listen well. I don't know why I asked that. I just as easily could have asked for chocolate chip cookies and a pony.
I left home an hour later and headed for the subway, heading downtown to meet a friend. I was listening to music with earbuds. I sensed, as I approached a disheveled looking guy from behind, that I should be open to an encounter with him. I removed my ear pieces and, as I passed, turned and said, "How're you doin'?"
He answered, "I'm sad."
I said, "I'm sorry. Nothing's worse than that feeling."
He, randomly I thought, asked where I go to church. I answered with the name of my church, downtown, not near my house. He immediately said, "Oh I know that church. The former pastor taught me about being an overcomer. He taught me about grace. I've never been there, but I know about it."
He asked where I was going (to meet a friend for lunch). I asked where he was going (to find his long-lost father, about whose whereabouts he had absolutely no idea).
I asked if I could pray for him. He said, "Well, even better we can pray for each other."
So we did. Right there on the sidewalk, for a good 15 minutes. We prayed he'd find his father. We prayed for my church to love the city well. We prayed for several other churches that came to mind for him. He prayed for me and my work and my family and my lunch with my friend.
And in the end, before I ran for my train, he asked, "Is St. Brendan's on the way to where I'm going?"
"Well, since you don't know where you're going, I'd say it just might be. You are welcome any time," I said (and told him where and when we meet).
Sure, we can gather at church buildings. But we can also have church on the sidewalk.
"Where two or three are gathered together…."