The waiter brought us our food quickly enough, but I looked at the window at the people and the taxis zooming by, and I wondered if we would make it on time. The restaurant we were in, was the exact same spot I found on Google Maps, Mon Petite Cafe, before we left. But, I hadn’t planned on it being so far from the church. We hadn’t ate a thing since we left home that morning, and we were starving… this was our lunch, at 5:15… and the food was going down easily.
Out of all of my trips to New York within the past year, I had yet to show up at the church I know so much about. The one with the minister who has the books on the New York Times Bestseller List; the one with the podcasts I subscribe to; the one that takes all of the complex stories out of the Old Testament, lifts them off the page and breathes life into them. That one, who loves New York; who knows how hard it is to live there, and yet stays to serve. The one who leaves you feeling humbled and awed at the same time.
So here I was, knowing I would be in New York on a Sunday, well after the early morning services. But maybe, I’d look up the service times at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and see what I could find. Services start at 6 p.m. that evening — at three different locations. The main church, the one I suspected where Dr. Keller would be preaching, explained that for that today, there would be no services. So, I figured that Timothy Keller must be out of town. Oh well – I’m sure the assistant ministers must be just as good– after all, same church, and it has a reputationÂ to live up to.
I picked the East Side Church, which was close to our hotel — and right around the corner for Fifth Avenue. I picked the restaurant, based uponÂ the church’sÂ Â staff recommendationsÂ from the “Meet the Staff Page,” and here we sat, waiting for the waiter to bring us our check.
Time, being what it was, and with so many demands and people in charge of our schedules that night, it would be a miracle if we ever actually did make it to that church. But… I was here… and I was determined to make it over there. Still, we were scheduled to be at dinner on the other side of town at 7. This church outing didn’t leave much wiggle room. I put my hands in my lap, and just surrendered and said a quick prayer to “get me there.”
I have never arrived in a Taxi for church — let alone one driven by a Taxi driver who insists we handed him a $10 when it was actually a $20. But, I just kept my eyes peered on the entrance – checking to make sure this was indeed, the right place – I didn’t want to be late — I didn’t want to miss a minute of the actual pomp and circumstance of the church services I had listened to, so many times, from such a far away place.
The church was located in an auditorium, for a college – a sterile place – that melted among the young and old people who greeted us warmly at every stage of our entry. I made small talk with the people sitting around meÂ and deciding that I felt right at home there. If I lived here, this could be my church. It helps when the ambassadors of the church live up to its stellar reputation.
The music started – a bit of gospel rock, with a touch of jazz, while I marveled at my own ingenuity at finding a show in New York City, that was, in fact, free.
I opened the bulletin, and I saw, then, why the main campus was having no services that night; why Timothy Keller was not there… because he was here… He was preaching in this very auditorium where I was sitting. I could hardly believe my luck… that just a little planning the night before with Google, had brought me to this place, where he was. Little does Dr. Keller know that he keeps me company when I am running my kids to and fro, to this and that; sometimes when I used to run, Â and often when I am folding my laundry.
With my phone on silent, I snapped a photo of the bulletin with his name, and sent it off to my friends who cared — with a quick note that said, “Waiting to here him start…”
Then, I shut off my phone and waited to be spell-bound. And, I was, by the time he finished, humbled, and awed by what he shared so eloquently. And we arrived, fashionably late, to dinner.