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Welcoming the Stranger Welcoming the Stranger

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Welcoming the Stranger

Posted on Thu, Jul 5, 2018

by Pastor Bob Norton

Hospitality of heart and home is a vital part of the Christian faith. Long before the church had pulpits and
baptistries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. In the New Testament the primary
gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God’s plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. Hospitality opens the
door to uncommon community. It’s no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your heart and your door to someone, you are sending this message: “You matter to me and to God.” You may think you are saying, “Come over for a visit.” But what your guest hears is, “I’m worth the effort.” Let’s start on Sunday mornings. Welcome a stranger to the church as if that stranger whom we call a “guest” was Jesus Christ himself. The Rule of St. Benedict teaches this kind of hospitality based on Galatians 4:14. After the worship service observe the “Five Minute
Rule” which means to take the first five minutes to turn to those you have not met and welcome them warmly before you turn to your friends. See that they get a loaf of bread and offer to take them to the refreshments and fellowship gathering.Invite these guests to our All-Church Picnic on Saturday, July 14th at Pine Canyon Park, to enjoy good food and make new friends. Years ago, one of my dear friends in the church I was serving was Bonnie Duck. I’ll called her Saint Bonnie because she had a marvelous ability to reach out
to new people and make them feel warmly welcomed. In her early married life, her husband John was a Navy fighter pilot. In his twenty years of service they lived in eighteen different localities. They were always the new people at the church and Bonnie developed a love for reaching out to guests and visitors. She always had her antennae out. Initiating conversation. Inviting to lunch. Showing interest in their lives. As a pastor I wished that I could clone Saint Bonnie and have a whole congregation of welcomers like her. In the summertime a spirit of hospitality works well in your neighborhood. Be looking for moving vans and U-Haul trailers. Bring a plate of freshly-baked cookies over and welcome them to the neighborhood. Ask if they have a church family. Invite them to our church. Invite them to the All-Church Picnic. They would love it! There’s a movie coming out about
Mister Rogers (played by Tom Hanks) “Everyone’s Favorite Neighbor” (a 2003 documentary). Rogers said in a 2001 commencement address at Middlebury College: “When we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.” The New Testament gives these encounters a wonderful mystical twist.
In Hebrews 13:1-2 we read, “Let brotherly and sisterly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

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