Daily Devotion Monday, November 16, 2015
This week all of our Daily Devotions will be reflecting on the sermon that I preached this past Sunday at my church, the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis--a sermon entitled, "Three Chairs." We believe our church has a rich history, a vibrant present and a hopeful future. Not all churches or communities of faith feel that way, though. Over the course of this week we'll be getting to the bottom of how that can change.
I watched from the chancel platform as the visitors to my church made their into the sanctuary and down the aisle, looking for a pew where they could sit down. The organist was playing a prelude, and I was sitting in my "throne chair" as I not-so-affectionately called it with the choir to my left as we awaited the start of the service.
It was their first time visiting our small church. They were a young couple, appearing to be barely in their early thirties--a rarity in our aging congregation. They found a pew and sat down, and I smiled in their general direction, hoping they could get a glimpse of it.
Just then, I saw one of our long-time members enter the sanctuary. She, too, began to make her way down the aisle, and I realized in a flash that the pew where our visitors had decided to sit was her regular pew, and they were sitting smack-dab in her regular seat. She realized the same thing in almost the same moment, and her face became wooden.
I wanted to stand up and say something or maybe rush down to intervene. It was like watching a train wreck about to happen and being powerless to stop it. Sure enough, the church member said something to the young couple that I couldn't hear, and their faces flushed with embarrassment. They slid farther down the pew to make room as my church member settled into her regular spot with a slightly triumphant look on her face.
The young couple never came back. I don't blame them. I wouldn't have either. The worst part is, I thought our church had outgrown that kind of behavior, that I had done a better job of teaching our folks to be warm and welcoming, open and flexible. The fact of the matter is, most of us would rather choose our own comfort over hospitality--me included.
How do we learn as Christians to practice what Pastor Joel Osteen calls "unconditional hospitality?" I think we have to look to Jesus' example to see how he handled people outside his circle of friends and family. Jesus welcomed everyone, in spite of their differences. He didn't care if you were a child, a tax collector, a prostitute or even a Roman. Jesus arms were always open. The only harsh words Jesus had were for the people who were overly religious, uptight and unwelcoming to those who were different from them.
So may you live this day as Jesus would--filled with unconditional hospitality for all those strangers God may send across your path. May your arms be open wide to receive those who may be seeking grace, but have no idea where to find it. Show them Jesus, and let them know they are welcome.