Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Tuesday - welcoming guests

Prayer:    “Eternal God,  You know what for us is hidden… bless Your people as we lay before You the hardness of our hearts.  Strengthen us in Your might,  deliver us from all that is evil and confirm us in faith,  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  (Taize “Praise in all our Days”  Mowbray,  1981, pg. 184).

Read St. Luke  9: 52 – 56

The Samaritans  would not provide hospitality to Jesus and the disciples because they were heading to Jerusalem.    Wow.   A middle eastern community not offering hospitality to travellers is a real shock.  What is behind the shunning of hospitality? 

There was a longstanding feud between the Jews and the Samaritans.  A feud that like most feuds was grounded in history.     The Samaritans were Hebrews who had not been taken away to Babylon.   They continued worshipping in the old style with centuries of local flavour being added in to their worship.  The Jews such as James and John’s historic family were part of the tribes that were taken to Babylon and lived in exile. 

James and John want to bring down fire from heaven onto the town.    But Jesus rebukes James and John.     And they travelled on to another village.    Jesus has taught by example that when you come up against a hard rock wall of hatred,  that one does not stand in the middle of the road and yell, “You hard hearted people!”  but one merely acknowledges the situation,  says prayers for the people and then travels onward to another village where hospitality is provided.

We shake our head at these stubborn stiff necked people.  But are we any better?   This Lent,  look at what you believe and what strong opinions you hold.      Really look at your beliefs and strong opinions.     Are your strong opinions like the feud between the Samaritans and the Jews?   

For Churches,  when you have a guest in your midst, are they made welcome?  Or do the guests/visitors slide into the pew and at the end of worship slide out of the pew without anyone greeting them in the name of Christ?    Is the entrance to the Church hospitable looking? Are the walls of the entrance washed and clean walls….  Clean carpet or floor tile… no buckets under rain stained ceilings or walls?  Are Posters and Sign Up Sheets current?   Is the Guest Book easily accessible?   Are there people to greet everyone?    Greeters must be trained to go toward each person that enters the Church rather than the guest coming to the Greeter. Does the Greeter take the guest around and show them where to hang their coat,  find the washroom,  and after worship coffee hour?    While these are all very simple things,  they are basic hospitality that our denomination has frequently forgotten.

This Lent,  really take a look at your Church.  Would James and John be welcomed or would they be travelling on to another “town”?

Prayer:   Eternal God,  help us to welcome all those who enter Your doors so that they may be given Your love and Your peace.  Open our hearts to attend to those who are new or have lost their way.   Lord have mercy.   Amen.

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