We have been enjoying a good season of welcoming many visitors and new members into the life and ministry of our congregation this year, and I anticipate that we will be welcoming many more in coming years. I feel that God wants us to be prepared so I have started reading a good book called Untamed Hospitality: Welcoming God and Other Strangers by Elizabeth Newman. It is a rich theological treasure for the deep reader to understand that hospitality is in the very nature of God and is, therefore, to be part of the very nature of God’s Church.
One of the most powerful takeaways from the book so far is the idea that worship is God expressing hospitality to us by inviting us to be with Him and with each other. “I claim that worship itself is hospitality. Rightly understood, worship is not something we have to make happen. Rather, when God gathers us to worship, we are brought by the power of the Holy Spirit into a worship already taking place in the life of God (pg. 17).” Imagine that! We tend to think of worship from our point of view. We set our alarm. We drag ourselves awake on a weekend morning. We muscle the kids around to make sure they are fed and dressed and not too crabby when they arrive, and we choose what seat we want to sit in. But if what Elizabeth Newman writes is true, then it is God who stirs in us a desire or need to set our alarm and get ready for worship. That feeling or impulse is God’s Spirit inviting us to meet in the building we call a church with the people God calls the Church so we can connect with one another, be in one another’s presence, and be filled, forgiven, healed and blessed by God’s love and grace through Jesus.
I know summer time is coming in the next few weeks and many of us will be traveling. Wherever you are, next time you think about worship, think to yourself, “That’s God inviting me to be with Him and His people, to bless me with his grace and love.” Next time you are debating whether it’s worth it to get up and go worship, wherever you are, remember to talk directly to God about God’s invitation to you. I think what Newman says about God’s invitation to us to worship is powerful: “The invitation to worship is an invitation to be incorporated into the Body of Christ. As such, it is always a gift, in the receiving of which we are called to wait and see what God is doing.” When we see all of the good God is doing, all the gifts God is giving us through Jesus and the Spirit and each other, we better learn how to be hospitable by inviting others to be with us so we can share God’s gifts.
Be praying about who God wants you to share the love of Christ with in words and deeds in the months ahead. These are the very people God may prompt you to invite to worship to receive God’s gifts!
Peace and Joy of Jesus,