The phone rang. It was Dave’s mum. “I’ve just heard some great news. Your Auntie Nora is coming from Australia for a visit. While she’s here it will be her 60th birthday so I’m organizing a surprise party for her next Saturday.”
Dave liked parties. Any excuse to have a bit of a get together and open the bubbly. During the week Dave help his mum with all the arrangements: contacting people to invite them to the party, organizing the music, shopping for the food and drink, putting up the decorations. By Saturday everything was organized. He decided to go to town, to buy a present for Auntie Nora, then take in the game at Pittodrie in the afternoon.
He got off the bus on Union Terrace and walked towards the shops. Who was that coming towards him? Oh yes of course it was Sandy and Alison from his local Church and they had Molly with them in her wheel chair. She was disabled and made unusual noises from time to time. Molly looked up at him but he just chatted to Sandy and Alison for a bit and avoided looking down.
He went into the Trinity Centre and up the escalator to Debenhams restaurant. “I could do with a coffee and a sticky bun to keep up my energy levels,” he said to himself.
He had just paid at the checkout and was standing holding his tray looking for a seat when he saw her. It was same old lady, the one he’d seen in there before, face all painted like a doll and straggly hair in ringlets. All the tables were full except hers. As usual she was at a table by herself, her carrier bags spread out around her feet. All the other customers were avoiding her like the plague.
So Dave had to sit perched on a high stool by the side of the wall at the far side of the restaurant. The counter there was all covered in dirty cups and bits of half eaten cakes. He cleared a space in the debris and tried to enjoy his coffee and cake as best he could.
When he was back outside again and just strolling along enjoying the buzz of the city he saw a man sitting on the pavement. He was encased in a dirty sleeping bag, an old cloth hat with some coins in it was in front of him and by his side lay a scraggy looking dog. He looked up at him hopefully. Dave was appalled, thinking to himself, “How can anyone live like that? He looks like one of those Eastern Europeans. I don‘t know why they don‘t stay in their own country”. He looked the other way as he passed but he felt guilty. “It wasn’t his fault for goodness sake,” he thought. Neverthless, it took him a while to shake that feeling off.
Eventually he found a nice present for his auntie. Then he caught a bus for Pittodrie.
As he was approaching the turnstiles he spotted an old school friend or rather an old flame. He had been mesmerised by Sandra’s long legs when they were both in 5th year. They had gone out once or twice but nothing came of it. It looked as though she was still unattached. He had heard that she had qualified as a vet and felt slightly intimidated by her because Dave’s life story to date could be written on the back of a matchbox. He strolled up and introduced himself.
They were chatting away about old times and Dave felt really good when suddenly there was a tug at his elbow. Dave turned round. Oh no! It was Joe from the local football club, chief supporter of every game, unofficial coach of the juniors and a committee member. Dave was also on the committee. The trouble with Joe was that he didn’t know when to stop speaking and his choice of language was never too polite either. Dave always found it embarrassing to meet him in front of his friends because he said the most outrageous things. And why did he always have to wear that denim jacket with the arms cut off showing all those tattoos? Although the spiders web on his neck would be difficult to hide anyway.
Dave waved them both a swift goodbye and moved quickly towards the entrance saying he must dash to get a good seat.
- Why did Dave avoid speaking to Molly, the woman in the cafe, the beggar and Joe?
- Why is Dave a captive?
- What would have to happen to set Dave free?
After the match Dave was heading for the bus stop when he realised his wallet was missing. He had no money for the bus back to the town centre and no money to get home with either. He looked frantically around for a friend he could ask for help but no familiar faces appeared. So he asked one or two strangers if they would give him the fare to get home but they treated him as if he had leprosy. He waited at the bus stop and decided to tell the bus driver his story. When the bus came along the driver made it quite clear that no money meant no ticket. He felt so embarrassed and imagined what the other passengers must be saying about him.
He began to feel desperate. It was too far to walk home. He began to imagine himself having to spend the night in town under a bridge or something, just like the beggar had to.
He was just wondering what to do when he saw someone deep in conversation about the match with a man in a wheel chair. It was Joe. Dave felt so relieved. He knew that Joe was a bit of an odd ball but maybe he would help him to get home.
It turned out that Joe had also come in on the bus and so they both set off for home together. They were walking up Union Street heading for the bus station when they met a big issue seller. Joe dug in his pockets, said something to the man and bought the magazine.
Further up the street they came across the painted lady. Joe stopped and had a word with her then helped her carry her bags to her own bus stop.
At the bus station they had a bit of time to spare so they went into the small café for a coffee. Joe paid for them and also bought an extra carry out coffee and a sandwich. “Sit there” he said to Dave “I’ll be back in a tick”.
Dave watched Joe crossing the road and going up to the beggar. He could see the man nodding and smiling, taking the coffee and sandwich and then Joe saying something to him that made him laugh.
As Joe came back into the café Dave asked him, “Do you know those people?” No, not really. But I like to have a word with them - cheer them up - you know. After all you never know when you’ll need a friend yourself.”
That made Dave think. His feelings of guilt turned to feeling ashamed. And it was a turning point in his life. He decided after that to always have a few coins and a few kind words for anyone who looked as if they could do with some help. The funny thing was that once he had made that decision he felt he had been set free - like it says in that hymn they sung last Sunday - “my chains fell off, my heart was free“.
And by the way Auntie Norah’s party turned out to be the best ever.
Order of Service 30 Jan 2011
Call to worship Is 42:5-7 p.705
Hymn 622 We sing a love that sets all people free
Prayer and Lord’s prayer
Reading Luke 4:14-30 p.79
Hymn 197 As we are gathered
Sermon [see below]
Hymn 724 Christ's is the world in which we move
Hymn 180 Give thanks with a grateful heart
Hymn 396 And can it be v.1,4,5
Benediction and Amen
In the run up to Easter we are planning to watch the film ‘Jesus man of the millennium’ and use it for a bible based discussion. We will be meeting on Friday afternoons. If you are interested please let Rosemary know.
Good news stories and pictures needed for the Church of Scotland Annual Review. Please e-mail or give them to Ron or Rosemary by the end of February. Stories and pictures also needed for our website
Sunday 30 Jan 2-4pm Sunday Funday Howe Trinity
Friday 4 Feb 2pm Service at Muirhead Care Home
Sunday 6 Feb 6.30pm Taize Service Howe Trinity
Friday 11 Feb 2pm Evergreens Tough meeting room