Daily Readings/ Editorial
Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, March 9:
Monday: Luke 11:14-36
Tuesday: Luke 11:37-53
Wednesday: Luke 12:1-34
Thursday: Luke 12:35-59
Friday: Luke 13:1-30
Saturday: Luke 13:31-14:14
Editorial - "PRACTICING HOW TO WELCOME"
Dr. Tom Long, professor of preaching at Emory University, talks about growing up in a small community church in rural Georgia. Most of the people who attended church where he did were farmers and shopkeepers and their families. Dr. Long remembers one Sunday morning when something happened that caused them to think about how they lived as Christians.
While they were in worship, a stranger walked in the side door of the church. Judging from his clothes and appearance, he probably had wandered over from the railroad tracks (one of those drifters who rode the rails) or, perhaps he was someone who had come in off the highway, just passing through.
The stranger walked up to the front of the congregation right in the middle of the preacher’s sermon. The congregation all looked at the man, and he looked back at them. The preacher even stopped the sermon and stared at the man. However, the man did not take a seat. Nor was he offered a seat. The man spoke not a word and not a word was spoken to him. He simply looked out across the congregation, paused for a moment, then walked out the door on the opposite side of the church.
After church that day, members of the congregation gathered under the big oak tree in front of the church building to discuss what had happened. For the next two or three Sundays, they gathered out under the oak tree after church and continued their discussion. They never figured out who the stranger was. But they knew that God had put an opportunity in front of them that they had missed. They had a chance to show hospitality to a stranger – the same hospitality that God has shown in welcoming them.
Jesus’ entire ministry was about welcoming those who had not been welcomed. He pronounced blessings on those who had been looked down upon (the poor, the meek, etc.). He went out of his way to care for those who had been brushed aside as others walked by. He reached out to those who were looked upon by others as sinners – sacrificing himself so that they might receive an eternal welcome.
To help people get a clearer picture of what Jesus was trying to do, he told them not just to invite others who would invite them back or do something else for them. Instead, Jesus proposed inviting the lame, the crippled, the blind and others in need. Those people, Jesus said, may never be able to fully repay anyone. But anyone who truly hears and responds by welcoming others like Jesus did will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12-14).
We live in a culture that praises independence, detachment from one another and freedom. It is easy to get so caught up in my space, my projects and my time that we miss opportunities of seeing when we might welcome others like Jesus was talking about. It wasn’t that Dr. Long’s church intentionally avoided welcoming the stranger in their midst. It was a matter of them not having had any experience with welcoming strangers who showed up unexpectedly. Perhaps they needed to practice what to do if such an occurrence happened.
The message, of course, for us is that the church is not a closed community. We are called by Christ to be ready to welcome others like He did. We all know and believe that. But are we prepared to practice it? Need some practice? Come be with us Sunday night March 9 from 4-6 PM as we host people from our community who will join us for dinner.