Posts

Have you seen the television ad about the boy who learns sign language so he can share his sandwich with a classmate?  His name is Joey. The ad opens with Joey lying on his bed, looking at his phone, wearing headphones, and positioning his fingers as if he is learning sign language.

In the next scene Joey is in a swing, looking at his phone, wearing headphones, and again, positioning his fingers as if he is learning sign language. In the third scene, Joey is signing in a mirror while he is brushing his teeth.  The scene cuts to his father making a sandwich for Joey’s lunch.

Then we see Joey on a bus, looking at his phone, wearing headphones, and practicing sign language.  He arrives at school, walks down the hall, looking at his phone, wearing his headphones, practicing his sign language.  In this scene he is so engrossed in learning and practicing sign language, he does not hear his teacher say, “Hey, Joey,” as he walks down the hall.

The Final Scene

The final scene is in the lunchroom.  Joey enters the room with his lunch.  He spots a girl carrying her lunch tray.  As she sits at a table by herself, Joey walks up to her, with his sandwich, and signs out the words, “Hi. My name is Joey. Do you want to share my sandwich?”

And she signs in response, “I’d like that.” Joey sits down with her, offers her half his sandwich, and they eat lunch together.

The caption at that point in the ad is “Good feeds our connections. Good feeds us all.”

 

Connections

Wow!

When I saw that commercial for the first time, I could not believe it was a lunch meat commercial.  I thought it was an ad for a church.

The makers of the ad say,

“…choosing good isn’t always about grand gestures; sometimes it’s as simple as sharing a sandwich or doing the right thing by making better decisions when the path might be confusing and out of reach…choosing to be more imaginative, generous, kind, or loving, there can never be too much good in the world.”

Oh, one more bit of information.  The title of the commercial is “Connections.”

God’s Presence

Now, I don’t want to make more of this than it is, but I want to share with you what this ad has stirred up in me.  I experienced God’s loving presence in and through this story.

I experienced God’s love through Joey offering hospitality to someone who was marginalized by her disability.  Joey exemplified hospitality at its best.

  • Joey decided he wanted to connect with the girl in the lunchroom.
  • He learned what was needed to make the connection. Because she had a hearing disability, he needed to learn sign language so he could talk with her in her language.
  • He focused on making the connection. Joey not only identified what needed to be done (sign language), he took the time to learned and to practice the sign language.
  • Joey made his connection by sharing part of himself to meet her need. He not only learned the sign language but he developed a relationship with the girl by sitting with her, offering part of his sandwich, and making the connection.

…all in a 30-second commercial.

Sharing God’s Love Through Hospitality

Have you considered showing God’s love through offering hospitality? Consider the following:

  • “Welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Roman 15:7). What would happen if you welcome one another as God in Christ has welcomed us?
  • “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God came to be with us in a way we could understand. God relates to us to help us relate to God and to one another. What could happen if we engaged with our community or neighborhood in a way that takes the people seriously?
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16). Love is the motivation for the connection. Do you and your congregation love the people in the community so much that you are willing to give yourselves?

The Question of Hospitality Transforming Mission

Consider Hospitality

Will you consider Joey’s pattern in sharing God’s love with your community and neighborhood? Consider the following:

  • Do you and your church want to connect with the community or neighborhood where you are located? Just saying you want to connect does not make the connection.
  • What is needed to make the connection? What do you need to learn about the community or the people with whom you want to connect?
  • We can and should pray. “O God, send us the people no one else wants and help us receive the people you send to us.”
  • We can and should engage people in conversation. Take a walk through the community and ask the people you meet these three questions:

1) “What do you love about our community/neighborhood?”

2) “What are the needs in our community?”

3) “Would you be willing to help us meet any of those needs?”

  • Are you willing to make your connection a priority? Are you willing to learn what you need to learn and to practice what you have learned to make the connection?

It’s time to develop relationships to make connections with others.

 

Hospitality as a Response to God’s Grace

The foundation of hospitality is found in responding to God’s grace in your life.  As individuals, we become hospitable when we receive God’s acceptance from others.  As a community of faith, we become hospitable when we live in an authentic relationship with one another.

So, who in your community would benefit from God’s love?  Are you willing to learn to connect with them? What part of yourself are you willing to give to love as you have been loved?

Your answer reveals your hospitality!

Prayer for Hospitality Transforming Mission

My fourth grade Sunday school teacher, Mary, would greet me every Sunday at the classroom door with the words, “Timmy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” Then with a welcoming hug, she would send me into the classroom to meet other classmates who had gathered.  As I entered the room I would hear her say, “Nancy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” When I would look back she would be hugging Nancy and sending her into the room to meet the rest of us.  Mary greeted us as if she had been waiting all week for us and as if we were the most important people she knew.

She modeled hospitality.  She acted out what she taught us in class. I remember her lesson on Jesus touching a leper and the story of Jesus receiving a woman that was sick.  I will always remember her saying that we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.

As important as it is, hospitality is more than a gesture of welcoming people to worship.  Hospitality is a sign of offering hope.

Four Ways to Extend Hospitality

Here are four practical ways you can offer hope by extending hospitality:

1. Become a Learner

A Prayer of Hospitality. Lord, send us the people no one else wants and help us receive the people you are sending to us. Amen Transforming Mission

Seek to understand instead of teaching. Mary was interested in who we were as people. She knew our

parents, our siblings, our school, and what we received as gifts for Christmas and our birthdays. She took time to learn about us as individuals, even though we were 10 years old.

Seeking to learn or to understand could be as simple as getting to know your neighbors. Learn their names, their needs, talents, and interests. Show an interest in them as a way of building relationships. Soong-Chan Rah writes, “In the household of God, we are called to a humility that places our relationships in a new light.”

2. Learn the language of the community around you

Although Mary worked for the town collecting money for water bills, she took an interest in us. She learned our 10-year-old language, attended special events at the school, and gave us gifts that challenged us to become who God would have us be.

Learning the language of the community could mean learning the language of teens and young adults.  It could also mean to communicate with a Hispanic population, Congolese or Vietnamese population, or another population centered in one part of your community. Attempting to learn the language is a sign of hospitality that brings hope.

3. Share a meal together

Several times a year, Mary would bring a meal to our Sunday School class. As we ate, she would tell us how Jesus invited people to eat at his table. Once when we did not have enough room around the table in our classroom, I remember her words, “There is always enough room at Jesus’ table.” With those words, she added an extension to our table.

We extend hospitality when we bring children, teens, and senior adults together. How could you create cross-cultural connections with another congregation or with other groups of people in the community?  What would happen if you offered to provide the food they liked and gave them the opportunity to prepare it for everyone?

4. Examine and Evaluate

Examine and evaluate how you are inviting and welcoming people into the building and into worship. Mary always greeted us at the door, in the hallway, outside the classroom. She always made sure there was a place for everyone around the table.

Where do you greet people coming into the building? Is there a place for everyone who enters the space?

In regard to worship and/or events in the building, are you prepared for people who do not know the routine? Do the announcements include outsiders as well as the insiders? What is the format of the printed bulletin? Does it assume people know the Lord’s Prayer, how to respond following the reading of scripture, and/or how to pray before worship begins? Just simple acts of hospitality are signs of hope to those being included.

A Prayer of Hospitality

As you are working on the four practical ways to extend hospitality, practice praying, “Lord, send us the people no one else wants” and “Help us receive the people you are sending to us.”  When you do, you will find the above suggestions helpful.

Remember, we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.  I am convinced that when you extend hospitality, you can expect your church and community to experience the beauty, complexity, and love that comes with being Jesus followers.

Let us welcome one another as God in Christ welcomed us. Your hospitality is a sign of hope.

 

 

Each of us faces times of uncertainty in our lives. Uncertainty comes with death or disaster. It comes with divorce, unemployment, or retirement. It comes with disappointment, lack of security, or the fear of the unknown.

Personally, I have come through several times of uncertainty. Times of not knowing what the future might hold and being paralyzed in regard to what decisions to make. I have felt I was caught in a place I had never been before.

Recently, I faced a time of uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond the moment. Uncertain about my future, I felt confused, hurt, and alone.

Facing the Future

It was at that point, in my anxiety, that a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I didn’t get a lot of sympathies, shallow agreements, or unrealistic platitudes. What I did get was a person of faith who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need.

She created a space for me to talk about my disappointments, hurts, fears, and anxiety. Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened with compassion and, at the appropriate time, asked me questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing.

She offered Christ by embodying God’s grace. I began to trust her compassion and look forward to her questions. The space she created and the grace she offered allowed me to move past my anxiety to see new possibilities beyond what I had known or experienced up to that point in my life.

Healing and Hope

Within the process of healing, she provided opportunities to put into practice the new possibilities that were beginning to emerge. Along with plans for reading and reflecting on scripture, occasions to practice the presence of God through prayer and conversation, and the challenge to look beyond myself to see what new thing God might be doing, I was invited to put my faith into action. It was at that point I rediscovered God’s desire, to use me, to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love.

It was in and through her engagement in my life that this Jesus follower helped me experience hope in a time of uncertainty. She did not bring easy answers. In fact, she did not bring any answers.

She did bring God’s promises to bear on my uncertainty. She came alongside me, at the moment of greatest anxiety, embodying God’s love, to journey with me through my most difficult moments, to see what God might have in store for the future. She was an instrument of God’s hope.

Hope in Uncertain Times

It is stating the obvious to say that we live in a time of great turmoil. People are killed not only in the streets but in their places of prayer. We are experiencing the deliberate strategy of fear and hate that has turned into violence. If I had to choose one diagnosis for what wounds people the most today, I would say that the root of the fear and hatred is found in uncertainty.

People lack certainty in their jobs, in the economy, in their children’s future. They are asking questions like, “Will my pension be enough?” “Will my job last?” “Will there be a place for me?” I know that some of you are uncertain about the future of our United Methodist Church. We are trying to hang on to what we know and we are wondering what will happen if it turns out differently than what we expect.

Agents of Hope

I am convinced, that in this time of uncertainty, God is ready for the congregations of the Capitol Area South District to be agents of hope. We are the people to bring the great promises of God to bear on this time and place in history. So, why don’t we become agents of hope?

Let’s create spaces for conversation, where we can talk about our fears, disappointments, and uncertainty. Let’s create places of trust where, even if we disagree, no one is judged for their thoughts, feelings, or opinions. Listen with compassion and offer hospitality even in the midst our uncertainty.

Let’s offer Christ by embodying God’s grace. The space we create and the grace we offer will allow individuals and churches, to see new possibilities beyond what they have known or experienced up to this point.

Let’s put the new possibilities that begin to emerge into practice. And if no new possibilities emerge, let’s just be Christian in our living. Let’s come together as congregations and pray for the people that no one else wants and put our faith into action by receiving the people God sends to us. These simple acts of faith will help us rediscover God’s love and we will begin to love our communities the way God in Christ has loved us.

Engagement Brings Hope

Friends, colleagues, readers, it will be in and through our engagement in the lives of individuals, our churches, and our communities, that we will experience hope during our uncertainty. There are no easy answers. We have not come this way before. But, because of the faith God has given us, we can bring God’s promises to bear on this moment. We can become instruments of hope for this time and place.

Let’s come alongside the people with whom we live, work, and serve. Let’s embody God’s love and journey together through these difficult moments to see what God might have in store for the future.

The people around us, our families, our churches, our communities, are longing for hope to face the future. God has placed in our hands “the single most indispensable, non-negotiable, irreplaceable resource required for big challenges and noble battles.” It is the power of HOPE.

So, let’s give people what they are longing for. Let’s give them hope in these uncertain times.

 

 

For Luke, the Scriptures and Holy Communion are at the heart of the church. To read and understand the scriptures is a divine gift in and through the risen Christ. When the Lord’s Supper takes place, there is an invitation to the outsider and hospitality to the stranger. It is in the “breaking of bread” that the stranger is recognized as a friend.

When the people are feeling weary and hopeless, Jesus prays. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. Through these acts of Holy Communion, Jesus is known and a new hope is born.

What does prayer have to do with it?

The story of the road to Emmaus gives us insight into Luke’s understanding of Jesus and the church.

Here is part of that story.

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?” – Luke 24:28-32

For me, this story clearly reveals Luke’s understanding of the meaning of resurrection faith. It is a story of two Jesus followers, walking to Emmaus, having a conversation about Jesus’ death and his missing body.

A Divine Gift

In the middle of their conversation, Jesus joins them on their journey. He is received as a stranger. Luke writes, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

This is Luke’s way of saying that being with the earthly Jesus, hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles and knowing the example of his life are not enough apart from an experience of the risen Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. To recognize God’s act in Jesus is not a matter of our human insight but is a divine gift.

Jesus, the stranger in their midst, asks, “What are you talking about?” The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place over the last few days?” And Jesus asks, “What things?”

The two Jesus followers began to give a summary of what had happened. Their summary was not wrong but, because of his death, they did not perceive that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They recited the correct events but did not perceive what had happened.

One of them said, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” I think it is important to understand that Jesus’ followers believed that God was present in what Jesus said and what he did. They believed that God’s kingdom of justice was about to dawn.

Was Hope Gone?

Then came the crucifixion and the shattering of their hopes. Their human wisdom said, “While there’s life, there’s hope.” The death of Jesus was the death of their hope. Even though they had his message, his example, and his ministry, the crucifixion meant that Jesus was another failed idealist. They had no reason to think differently.

Their hope was that God would send the Messiah to restore Israel and set Israel free from oppression. These two on the road with Jesus perceived God’s redeeming work in nationalistic terms. For them, it was over. Hope was gone.

In a New Light

Jesus then says, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples began to understand the scriptures in light of their Christian faith. They discovered many passages that illustrated their new faith. Luke is clear.

He believed that the risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was guiding the church into the true meaning of the Scriptures. In his story of the road to Emmaus, Luke introduced the process of reinterpreting the Scripture under the guidance of the risen Christ.

Prayer and Hospitality

While on the road with the two travelers, Jesus is not recognized as the Christ but only as a weary fellow traveler. The two extend an invitation to food and fellowship. As they offer hospitality, Jesus is revealed to them. It is here we get a clue to prayer and hospitality.

“So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” Luke 24:29-31

Jesus did not force himself on them, but when invited, the guest became the host. The meal was an ordinary meal, but the words were the familiar words of Holy Communion. The words, “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it…” reflect the language of the liturgy of the Lord’s Table.

Jesus took and blessed the bread. Blessing in the Greek is the word “eulogy.” Blessing is to eulogize God. The prayer was, “Blessed are you Lord God creator of the universe. For you sustain all your creation and satisfy our hearts with good things.” God is eulogized as creator, sustainer, and keeper of life. So, the prayer was praising God and not the food.

prayer and hospitality are essential to the Christian life. What do we encounter in Luke's gospel that illuminates how we can unite prayer and hospitality? Read the blog post at transforming mission.Word and Deed

For Luke, God’s saving work in Jesus was a matter of both word and deed. He spoke the word of God and reflected God’s justice and mercy that represented the kingdom of God. Jesus’ followers did the same thing in the church. They not only proclaimed the gospel but they embodied the gospel in their lives. They became the evidence of the Jesus alive on earth.

Word and deed were integrated into both Jesus’ life and the life of the early Church. Words without deeds are hypocritical and hollow. Deeds without the word of the gospel miss the point of God’s act in Jesus as the source of normal loving living.

I find it interesting that the church in the past has been guilty of speaking without acting, but the church of today might be guilty of acting without speaking the Word.

Being Known

With that in mind, there are two things important to Luke and to his church.

  1. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Jesus provides the lens through which we are to look at the scripture. He is the key to our understanding the scripture.

Luke wants us to know that knowing about earthly Jesus, hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles, and knowing the example of his life are not enough apart from experiencing the risen Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:35)

Three times in Luke’s gospel, we get a story of eating with others: feeding of the 5000, last supper in the Upper Room, and with the travelers on the road to Emmaus. In each story, we have the liturgical formula used in Holy Communion.

The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, is central to the life of the Church. In the house at Emmaus Jesus is a stranger, yet a guest. Even though he is the guest he becomes the host.

It is in the breaking of the bread, the stranger, the outsider, becomes known to them as Jesus himself.

Word and Table

Prayer and hospitality come together at the Table. There is enough room for you. Read more on the blog.

For Luke, this is the church. The services of Word and Table are at the heart of the church. To read andunderstand the scriptures is not solely a matter of our human intellect and insight but is a gift in and through Jesus, the risen Christ.

When the Lord’s Supper takes place, there is an invitation to the outsider and hospitality to the stranger. It is in the breaking of bread that the risen Christ is made known to the community.

When the people are feeling weary and hopeless, Jesus prays. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. Through these acts of Holy Communion, Jesus is known and a new hope is born.

Even though there were only three at the table that day, the table was large enough for the stranger.

I think it is important to understand that Jesus put prayer and action together. When you are at the Table with friends and strangers, and when you are giving thanks and praising God, look and listen closely.

You are in the presence of Jesus.

Every time church gathers there is an offer of hospitality. A diversity of people worships together, learns and grows together, and becomes family together. In fact, hospitality is a lifestyle. As a congregation, we have the opportunity to offer a home and family to people who, at that moment and for all practical purposes, are looking for a place to belong. Every gracious host or hostess makes the offer “Make yourself at home.”

Read more