The organist played softly as the ushers collected the morning offering. Young and inexperienced, I usually used these moments to review my sermon notes one last time.

That Sunday, however, I looked at the faces of the congregation and soon forgot my sermon. As if scales fell from my eyes, I saw beyond appearances to real life.

In the third pew on the right slumped the pregnant high school girl. On one side sat her mother; on the other her boyfriend and his mother. It was his mother's first time in our church. They all looked as if their whole world had tumbled in. It had. On Tuesday I had agonized with the girl as she poured out her soul to me.

Just behind her sat a widow. Her son-in-law had recently abandoned her daughter, leaving three teenage granddaughters filled with bitterness. "What can I do?" she had asked me. I didn't have a lot of advice. We grieved together.

Nearby sat her sister-in-law, also widowed. Her pride in life, a son in the ministry, had just left his wife and church for ...

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