A few weeks ago, my buddy Dan and I decided to go to the movies. We tend to do this from time to time to see all the different superhero and sci-fi movies. This trip was no different, we decided to meet at a theatre that is centrally located between our homes for an early, 9:40am showing of Captain America: Civil War. I guess we really are getting old when we go to the earliest movie showtime available, but with our wives at work and children in childcare it makes for a very logical time to do this. Even so, this was the earliest movie I’ve ever been to at a theatre.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw Dan standing outside the theatre waiting for me. After parking, he said, “The theatre’s closed.” I said, “What do you mean?” I definitely felt a sense of relief though when I noticed that there were other people showing up for the movie. Looking through the doors, we could see employees working inside, but they never even acknowledged our presence. Finally I said, “I wonder if they have a phone number I could call?” A quick Google search led me to a phone number on the theatre’s website. I called the number and instantly thought I was being transferred to a call center as an automated answering service picked up. Finally, I was given the option to speak to someone. When the lady answered the line, I said that I was trying to reach a local theater, and to my surprise she said, “I’m the manager and I’m sitting in the office right now.” I told her that I was there for a movie, but the doors were locked. She proceeded to tell me that they did not open until 11am during the school year. I pleaded my case that the website had listed a movie time of 9:40am. By now, there were over a half dozen people standing outside the theatre and some of them had begun listening in on my conversation. One of the gentlemen quickly chimed in, “We even pre-purchased tickets.” At this, the manager said, “I’ll check the website,” and instantly these were the words she relayed over the phone to me, “Oh, ummm…I am seeing an error on our website. I’ll be right there to unlock the doors, but unfortunately the concession stand will not be open.”
As we were escorted into the theatre, the manager informed us that our viewing would be free and they would be refunding the pre-purchased tickets. All I could think was what extravagant generosity this was. Then, about 20 minutes after our film began, the Assistant Manager came into the theatre with popcorn and drinks for everyone in attendance. Words can’t even begin to describe this experience. Never in my life have I ever had someone work so hard to correct their mistakes. I have thought a lot about this experience over the past weeks, especially as I have been keeping up with several different issues impacting the church I am a part of, the United Methodist Church. As we struggle with so many issues, I keep thinking about the generosity that I was shown in that movie theatre. I truly pray that as a pastor, I can show this generosity to everyone I encounter. The fact that the manager owned her mistake (or her theatre’s mistake) and tried to make right by those of us there, that’s how I want to be as a pastor. I want to help people own their mistakes and find redemption in Christ. But, why stop with just a few people. I pray that as a the Church, we can all begin to see those areas where we need to be more generous, to offer grace FREELY.