“All my dad will say is they’re talking to somebody,” said Stacy.
“My dad said, ’we’ll see,’” said Jimmy. “I hate when he says that.” I listened as complaints bounced around the table in the Upper Room. Apparently it was a deep, dark secret who our Wednesday night teacher was going to be.
“Where’s your dad?” Lizzie asked me.
“Yeah, where’s Mr. Ray?” echoed several of the others.
“Better late than never,” spoke the Old Man from the doorway. “Sorry, gang. I got held up downstairs.” He laid his Bible on the table and parked himself in the empty chair between Ron and Jim.
“You beat me here tonight,” he grinned at Ron, who grinned back uneasily. The Old Man smiled and glanced around the table at each of us in turn.
I do not exaggerate when I tell you what a chill those words brought into that room. For one thing, not a one of us had ever heard our parents utter those words except as a prelude to something really awful happening. In the second place, he had always opened our study sessions by telling to turn to this, that or the other verse of scripture. Now this. Observing our expressions of dread, he laughed.
“The elders have asked me to lead your Wednesday night Bible study.” If there had been curtains in the room, the collective sigh of relief would have blown them off the windows.
“I hope yall have been thinking about the question I asked last time: ‘what do you want out of this class?’” The unease began to creep in again. To be honest, I had not given the thing another thought. I was prepared to bet that none of the others had either. A brief glance confirmed this conclusion for the Old Man as well.
“Why do you guys call this the Upper Room?” Whoa. Who knew the answer to that? Not me. I’m just the new kid, I thought.
“Um, well,” said Lizzie, who was rapidly becoming our spokesperson, “it has a certain ring to it and it is in the Bible after all.”
“This is true,” he replied. “So what do we know about the Upper Room? What went on there?”
“The Last Supper?” asked Zack.
“Absolutely right. What else?” Zack looked around for help. We had nothing for him.
“What about the day of Pentecost?” asked the Old Man. Ah,yeah. There was that too.
“Remember?” he continued. “Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem after He ascended into heaven. They were in the Upper Room and the Holy Spirit came and they began to testify. Thousands of people were saved that day.” Recognition had dawned in the eyes of most of us. We waited expectantly to see how he was going to make the link between that Upper Room and this Upper Room.
“You know, I don’t expect tongues of fire to appear over your heads.” Several, including myself, began to recall the story of Pentecost.
“The point is: those folks in that Upper Room began working to change their world on that day.” He paused to see if he had our attention. He did.
“What would it look like to see a group of young people dedicated to sharing Jesus’ story and living out their faith in front of other young people?”
“What do you mean, ‘living out our faith,’ Mr. Ray?” asked Chad.
“How about this?” asked the Old Man. “There are always kids at school who are not popular, or maybe newcomers or maybe just shy. What kind of difference do you think it would make to one of these folks if you just said ‘Hi’ and smiled each time you saw them?”
I snuck a peek at my friends to see if they might be remembering a simple kindness someone had done them. I certainly recalled the first time Kels had walked up to me and began gabbing away the first time we met. I noticed several smiles around the table.
“You see, guys,” the Old Man continued, “I’m not asking you to be something you’re not. But you are Christians. And we are called to love others.” He sat back and let that soak in for a bit. I could tell everyone was turning over in their minds the things he had just said. He let us ponder a while longer before speaking again.
“You know, I’m reminded of Jesus’ statement: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Let’s turn to Matthew 25.”