There it was, sitting on a raised platform, centered in the concert hall to give the best view of the orchestra, this massive white chair with lots of space all around so as not to be bothered by the wiggles and noises of the common-folk in surrounding chairs. The crowd, assembled and seated, dressed in their best, waiting for the guest of honor, was about to be shocked. For when the time arrived for the first notes of Beethoven’s music to fill the concert hall, instead the air was filled with the sounds of confusion, for the guest of honor was a no-show. Pope Francis again refused the honor of the Pope’s Chair. In fact, this time, instead of refusing to sit in his chair, he didn’t enter the hall at all. The Empty Chair had a message from the Pope: “Don’t honor me; honor God. I have work to do.” At least that is the message I heard from the chair. The Chair was talking alright, telling the Vatican and the world that this humble messenger of Christ had other priorities, that his call to serve is not fulfilled in big white chairs in concert halls.
What will the chairs you are offered seating in this week be talking about? What if, before any of us went to sit down in a chair, we would ask ourselves, “Is this a chair that Jesus would sit upon today? What is the message that is sent to others in the room if I leave this chair empty?” The answer might be surprising, for Jesus spent a great deal of his recorded ministry sitting among people whom the religious leaders shunned. Jesus sat in the synagogue and in the Temple. What is the message of his filling those chairs? But Jesus also sat next to women and men whose activities wagged the tongues of gossipers. What would have been the message had he left empty those seats?
You can send a powerful message from the chairs you choose to fill or leave empty this week. What will the chairs you leave empty tomorrow say about you? What will the chairs you fill next Friday be saying to those around you? The chairs you are invited to fill will keep talking. What they will say about your life and your priorities is up to you.