Our House, is a Very, Very, Very Fine House
July 2008 Pastor's Newsletter Article Or... The Christian as a Minister of Hospitality
Jesus practiced radical hospitality. That is part of the reason why the religious leaders of Jerusalem in his day were so offended by him.
These religious leaders lived with a different paradigm than Jesus did. Their focus was to draw sharp lines of distinction between what was holy and what was unholy. Over the centuries they had developed a remarkable number of rules about what a person of faith could touch or eat - and what sort of people a person of faith could have contact with. Follow these rules, and the believer was undefiled - fit to worship with God's people. But break these rules, and the believer was defiled, and had to abstain from worship and from fellowship with other believers, until the appropriate rituals of restoration had taken place.
Not so with Jesus, though. He made a point of spending time in the presence of "unholy" people. Tax Collectors. Prostitutes. Those reputed to be possessed with demons. Jesus visited with them. He ministered to them. He ate with them. In Matthew 9:12, after the Pharisees complained that he was not obeying these purity laws, he objected by stating that, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."
Jesus practiced radical hospitality. Even his most sacred meal - his last supper - the meal that instituted what we now know as The Sacrament of Holy Communion - even at that meal, he gathered with the one who would betray him, the one who would deny him, and the ten who would run and hide when he came in to his darkest hour.
We too, as his disciples, are to practice radical hospitality. This simple belief has wide-ranging ramifications. It means that we are to welcome, fully, any who come our way, even those who are significantly different from us. It means that we are to be attentive to how we can help newcomers figure out our way of gathering together - noticing if they are having trouble using the worship folder, or finding a place for their child to sit, or discovering where the Sunday school rooms or rest rooms are. It means that we wear nametags, and introduce ourselves to those who may not have formed friendships here yet.
The commitment to radical hospitality even informs how we maintain our facilities. Our buildings and grounds (inside and out) serve as 24-hour advertisements to the community around us. What do people see as they drive by? What do people see as they stop in? Do they see a meeting space that is clean and inviting - one that shows signs of being owned by a people who take pride in what God is doing here? A people who are eager for others to stop by our house and join us for an hour or so?
Let us commit ourselves to radical hospitality. Let us offer an enthusiastic welcome to any who might be interested to worship and serve with us. Let us tear down all barriers that keep others at arm's length. And let us - each of us - see this very, very, very fine house of worship as a place that beckons others to come in and see what we are all about.
God's peace to you all,
David J. Risendal, Pastor