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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Back in the eighties I met with a group of people on Thursday nights. We were all just regular, ordinary, dysfunctional people, without excuse or pretense. They were my ‘small group’ and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I mention some their names. There was Sam Malone, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox; Diane Chambers, Rebecca, Carla, Woody, Norm, and Cliff Clavin, who worked as a mail carrier, and several others. This band of misfits gathered at a bar in Boston, and I joined them each week even though I lived on the West coast. They even had a song. Part of the lyric went like this:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name

And this was the magic of Cheers. Life can be hard and you need a few people among whom you can just be yourself and know you’ll be safe and loved no matter what.

Jesus put it like this:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

You may have heard it said, and may have even said it yourself, “Jesus is great, it’s those Christians I have a hard time with.” Jesus is welcoming and safe, full of tender mercies, He is easy to be around because His love for me is unconditional. I long to be with Him. He is my safe harbor, my cleft in the rock.

Since Jesus dwells in people by the presence of God the Holy Spirit, then it follows that there would be people all around us who would reflect Jesus’ heart of love for others. And there are. I know many such people. The problem is that organizationally we tend to hide the love of Jesus behind programming and preaching that is entertaining rather than engaging.

But I don’t want to be entertained. I have NetFlix.

I’m hurting and lonely. I want to go to church at “Cheers.” I want to go where people want to know me, the real me, not the victorious me, but the broken me. The one I am when nobody’s looking. The one we all are before God at night when we confess for having forgotten Him again.

I want to be embraced and to embrace others with the greatest miracle in the world, God’s unfailing, unconditional love. The all-powerful essence of God that raised Christ from the dead and has made shelter for every broken person that will come to Him in faith.

If I could tell pastors and leaders one thing it would be that hurting, lonely people are still looking for this.

We should all just nuke the rest of the crap and get back to the basics of the gospel – that God extends love, acceptance and forgiveness to every person through the death, burial and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. And, that He loves you dearly and you are safe and valued in His care and among His children, His people, His church.

Because sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.