Vision and Values – Welcoming (Romans 12: 9-18)
This value of ‘welcoming’ was presented at our All Age Service in several parts – rather than one talk.
It involved lots of discussion and group work. These are basic notes rather than a full sermon!
Our vision here at All Saints is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead. People who KNOW God, GROW in his love, and then SHOW that love to others.
And one of the things that is important to us is we want to be a church We want to be a place, a church where everyone is welcomed, everyone is important, and everyone feels at home with us.
Romans 12: 9-18
Paul often writes in long rambling sentences but here he gives us bullet points, each of which is simple, precise and direct and can stand alone / grab attention / require more detailed focus. They take about 90 seconds to read, and a whole lifetime to try to put into practice. I’d like to consider further just three of these:
- Loving one another (vv 9 and 10) – We love, because he first loved us. Words of Jesus: “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And “Love the Lord your God …. Love your neighbour as yourself.”
People can sense when there is real love within a community. Many people have learned how to pretend to love others, to say kind things, to avoid hurting their feelings, to appear to take an interest in them, to express compassion when learning of others’ needs or indignation when learning of injustice but God calls us to show genuine and sincere love, not simply politeness.
How can we bring more genuine love into our lives?
Prayer – ask for the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, to be more Christlike, and to be open to its prompting. A sincere, humble, unhypocritical, unconditional, unlimited, all-encompassing, heartfelt, devoted, fervent, relentless, practical, engaging, generous, caring and compassionate love – difficult to achieve but important to keep trying.
Focus on others and not on ourselves.
Genuine love is not just being nice to people; when we show love to someone we make a difference and we move them towards a greater experience of God’s goodness.
- Take care of needy people regardless of their status, social position, religion, politics, gender, race, etc. Welcome strangers into your home (v 13). Note – not only practise but pursue hospitality (translation: love of stranger).
What might hospitality look like for you? Especially if your situation makes traditional forms of hospitality difficult to do; how might that be adapted? – breakfast muffins, mid-morning coffee, a salad at lunchtime, offer to babysit or to take their children on an outing; when baking or cooking, prepare some extra food and take it to someone living on their own. Look out for neighbours or people at church who just need company and time for a chat.
Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining.
Entertaining focuses on the well-dressed, relaxed, in-control host, the spotless, comfortable home, the well-prepared, perfectly-timed, abundant, attractive food and drink, the stimulating conversation pieces.
Hospitality focuses on the guests and their needs, whether it is a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear or simply companionship. Hospitality can happen in a messy, noisy home, around a kitchen table where the main course is canned soup; it can happen while the host and guest are spending time together doing a few chores; it can be fitted in between awkward working shift patterns.
Don’t hesitate to offer hospitality just because you are too tired, too busy, too anxious, too self-conscious or not wealthy enough to entertain. Real life often doesn’t fit the vision of hospitality we may have in our minds; so go ahead anyway, have courage, reach out and you’ll be surprized how rewarding it can be.
CHALLENGE – invite someone round for a meal – someone from church whom you don’t know very well and get to know them.
- Paul really stresses that we’re to treat everyone the same… to be friendly to everyone….to not think ourselves smarter than others, but to make friends with everyone…
It reminded me of an example James gives us in his letter….
Just imagine your sat here in church one week, when in walks the most amazing person, they’re wearing glamourous expensive clothes, they have a big fat gold ring on their hand, stylish shoes, and they look stunning…wow!
Then in comes another person, and they’re wearing dirty, old, smelly clothes… yuk!
What would you do – how might you react to these two people?
Well, James warns us not to treat them differently…it would be wrong to give the best seat and the front to the one in the fancy clothes and tell the poor person to sit or stand at the back.
That would be showing favouritism or partiality – and it is wrong – we must treat everyone equally and fairly.
James is making the same point as Paul – we’re not to have favourites – or think that we’re better than others… rather we to love and treat others as we would want to be treated.
So three very important points….love one another, care for one another and show hospitality to those in need, and remember no favourites!
Our aim – our goal is always to give the best welcome we can – to each other and to those we meet throughout our week at school, at college, at work, in the street, our neighbours and our friends.
Jesus is our prime example – he welcomed everyone – he ate meals/shared food with people and treated everyone equally. Our aim, our desire is to be more like Jesus.
And so, shall we finish with a simple prayer:
Father God – help us to be more like Jesus –
that in all that we are and do, we will welcome everyone. That every person in our community might know that they matter and feel at home with us. Amen