I might have mentioned that we start our mall walks by a burger place called “Red Robin.” The parking is close to the door and closest to our house.
I understand the irony of worrying about parking when you are going to walk.
About half a mile away, at the far end of the mall, is a little manicure shop. I’ve never been inside, mind you, but when you walk past a place 3-4 times a day for seven winters, you start to notice.
And on this morning, that’s where Saint John was sitting. The gate covering the store entrance wasn’t open. John was sitting on the bench in front of the door, talking to one of the workers. I think she had arrived early, and John just sat down next to her.
I was worried, a little. I mean if he was THE Saint John, it couldn’t be good for his reputation to be sitting in a dark hallway talking to a young woman. Especially someone who, judging by her accent, wasn’t born in this country.
Not that I was eavesdropping. Not that I was judging. I was just curious.
John saw us walking by. He waved us over.
“I want you to meet my friend,” he said. “We were just talking about Christmas. She was asking me whether it was better luck to have a real tree or an artificial tree. She wondered what my ancestors had done. I told her that I didn’t know how to answer that. What about you?”
“My ancestors lived on a farm by the woods,” I said. “They always had real trees. I never thought about luck. But it did feel more Christmasy.”
Saint John smiled. “Can I tell you what Jesus said in a conversation like this? A woman said that her ancestors worshiped on one mountain and that Jesus’ ancestors worshiped on another one. And she wanted to know which was best.”
The woman looked at John intently. “What did this Jesus say?”
“He said that worshipers don’t have to worry about a place and an altar and offerings. He said that the Father God is looking for people who will worship in spirit and in truth.”
“Even people like me?” she asked. “People sitting at the edge of the crowd?”
“Especially,” John said. “Jesus loved those of us at the edges.”
From Saint John of the Mall.