There is a saying that goes, "There's a first time for everything." As a pastor on the rez I had not one, but two, of those experiences yesterday.
It began when I went over to church to look for a package that supposedly had been delivered Monday, while we were out of town. Supposedly, because the tracking info from the delivery service said that it had been left at the front door, yet it was nowhere to be found. The regular UPS and FedEx folks know where we live, but if it was a substitute driver then there are no guarantees. Not all buildings in Dulce have street addresses and if a person puts our address into Google Maps they are taken to a location ½ mile up the street. Go figure.
So I expanded my search from the house to the other buildings on the property. I went to the church. No package there. It was raining so I walked through the hallway connecting the church to the gym/office/classroom building. And as I entered that building I heard several voices.
Multiple voices got my curiosity up. Our cleaning person usually works alone and to the best of my knowledge we had no organizations or people using our building yesterday. I also thought I smelled cigarette smoke.
Following my nose and ears I went upstairs and in the large classroom were three men, smoking and drinking. I don't recall the conversation verbatim, but the gist of it on my end was telling them they had to leave, and on their end telling me that "so-and-so" had let them into the building. I told them I didn't know "so-and-so" and that they still had to leave. And so they gathered their things, leaving behind half a can of beer, and headed outside.
Finding people drinking inside the building…that was the first "first time for everything."
When they were outside and I was checking the lock one of the men asked me if I would pray for them. I get those requests often, sometimes from people I have never met. Sometimes from people who are intoxicated. I always pray for them, although perhaps not always in the way they quite expected. This time I did something different. I said, "Pour out the rest of your liquor and then we'll pray." Attaching a condition before agreeing to pray was my second "first time for everything" of the day.
They very briefly considered my requirement, and then walked off in the rain.
In John 8 we have the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus calls out those who intend to stone her, saying:
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
We read that story and are reminded that we are all sinners and to pretend otherwise is hypocrisy. But that isn’t all Jesus says, as he tells the woman:
"Go, and from now on sin no more."
Alcohol abuse is like a cancer here on the rez, except that people with cancer are much more interested in seeking treatment than people abusing alcohol. I have no idea what other issues in the lives of those men drives their alcohol abuse, but living here for four years has taught me that each of them knows at least one person who is no longer living as a direct result of alcohol abuse. The issue here is that pervasive.
This is one of the occasional weekends on the rez where many people are going to have more cash on hand. More cash on hand means a number of things, including, unfortunately, an escalation of all manner of behaviors related to alcohol abuse. But as I think and write of all this right now I have a new thought, which is that perhaps this weekend will be the one where someone stops by the parsonage and says, "Pastor Brad, I really need to make my last drink the last drink of my life. Will you help me?"
There is a first time for everything, and that is an invitation I would readily accept.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.