Week beginning 6th March
Read Hebrews 13:2 Matthew 25:34 – 36
When do we entertain strangers unawares? We open our church doors on Sundays and through each week for worship and a wide range of other activities, both for our congregations and for community members. We do not always know everyone who joins in an activity, some are ‘strangers’ – people we have never met before. Generally, we seek to give a welcome, to make people feel at ease, but that can be tricky. Some people are happy to converse and may almost tell their life story from first meeting, while others prefer to sit at the back, take in what is happening and slowly start to interact. Those acting in the role of host need to be conscious of welcoming in a way which will not immediately make new visitors want to leave, never to return! So, how do we get it right? There are no absolute ‘rules’, but a warm smile is usually a good start, a few words of welcome and perhaps a guide such as ‘sit wherever you would like’, and ‘if you have any questions please come and ask. This gives an opening for those who want more conversation, but a chance to find a quiet spot for those who are unsure.
Building relationships is fundamental to building a community which seeks to follow Christ’s example, and hospitality is a key factor in helping to build relationships. Jesus did not seem to have problems relating to people, and he most often sought out the poor and marginalised. He ignored the fact that some people were considered ‘unclean’ and deliberately associated with them and often ate with them. Reverend Inderjit Bhogal suggests that ‘..followers of Christ have no option but to welcome the stranger, and to share good hospitality, and journey as pilgrims together.’ [Hospitality and Sanctuary for All 2021]
Reflect In our society we still create systems where some are marginalised. Think about what it is that excludes and marginalises people. Is it their appearance, character, smell? Or is it the difference in wealth , education, or opportunity? Does it relate to where they live, or the kind of hoe, or not, that they have?
If we believe that every person is made in God’s image and valued equally, how does that affect our own behaviour and that of the church and community that we are part of?
Prayer Lord, we want to follow your example, to provide a welcome for all, a place where they feel relaxed and at ease; a place where they can play their part and be included, but sometimes it is hard. It is hard to know what to say or how much to say. We need you beside us to guide our thoughts, words and actions so that we are able to follow your example more closely. Help us to be relaxed ourselves as we welcome others to our homes, our groups and our churches. Lead our planning to provide the facilities and groups that people most need to support their lives, and help us to make links so that everyone feels that they can contribute, using their skills and talents.