This Sunday, we're not quite back into the regular lectionary readings. The focus of worship will be the theme of; "Hopsitality; Leaving openings in our lives to meet Jesus." Scriptures are: Matt 10:37-42, Lev. 19:34, and Luke 24:13-34. Go ahead and read the scriptures-they're all challenging as we think through Christian hospitality. Today I'm going to tell a couple of stories that you can throw into the mix of thinking around this theme.
What does it mean to welcome another person in Christ's name?
It's easiest to welcome those who look like us, smell like us, think like us. Even then, however, it can be a struggle to welcome or feel welcomed. A number of years ago, I moved into a small town kind of place. I saw a sign advertising a "Boots and Saddle Club" meeting, and all were welcome. I had a horse, and thought this would be a great way to get to know the community, so I walked in to the hall where about 20 people were gathered. I sat down with them. No one said a word to me, the person sitting beside me even lit up a cigarette without asking if I minded. I did. The ironic thing was that the theme of the meeting was; "how do we get new members?" I stayed for the whole meeting. Afterward, no one approached me, so I introduced myself to the chairperson. I was, I think, constructively blunt in saying how I wanted to be a new member, but was disappointed that no one talked to me. In spite of the rough start, I really did end up fitting in and I found a valuable community to belong to-but I had to put in some significant effort!
What if the people who want to belong look different, smell unusual, and have different ways of thinking? What if they don't feel able to introduce themselves? How do we open ourselves to be like Christ to them, or to meet Christ in them?
Debra Dean Murphy relates this story, said to originate in a Russian Orthodox Monastery, of an older monk telling a younger one;
"I have finally learned to accept people as they are. Whatever they are in the world, a prostitute, a prime minister, it is all the same to me. But sometimes I see a stranger coming up the road and I say, 'Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?"
This story tickles me because I hear that last sentence in two different ways. One way has an exasperated tone. I'm tired of hearing 'needy' stories, of giving, of feeling like this might be "wasted time." The second way has a joyful tone, I'm curious about the person and I look forward to the surprise revelation of the face of Jesus that often catches me unaware. It's not all about giving to them, it's about learning from them and receiving their gifts.
A question for discussion;Think of a group or individual who is on the receiving end of what you give to the church. (refugees, homeless, people in a women's shelter....). What do you/can you see yourself receiving or learning from them? Are you serving and receiving with an exasperated tone or a joyful tone?
Here is the link for Debra Dean Murphy's very good (and not long) article.