Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. 3 John 1:5
Do you remember times when you as a parent heard from a teacher what a good job your child had done or perhaps from another parent how well behaved your child was and the subsequent warm fuzzy feeling that you experienced? Or maybe you heard something similar from the vet about how cooperative your pet had been and again, how positive that made you feel. Well, as one of your clergy I want to let you know, as a result of a cluster of similar positive remarks I have heard about you during the last couple of weeks, I have that same warm, fuzzy feeling!
Redeemer is in the midst of increased activity that includes both worship offerings, adult educational opportunities, and use of our facility by community groups. The wonderful consequence of the amplified exposure is the significant number of ‘new’ people that are coming across our threshold. This is such great news for our community!! But what is equally exciting is how you, the members of Redeemer, are welcoming them. I am hearing over and over from our newcomers how they are feeling such a warmth and hospitality from this church. They are coming and returning because you are making an effort to reach out, to introduce yourselves, to invite them to coffee hour, to join you in a small group. This beautiful cycle of kindness is the ongoing theme of their impression of our church. And, it is a reminder of the value of continuing our habit of wearing the name tags!
I want to give you a specific example from this past week. Saturday night we welcomed 400 people for a book signing event we co-sponsored with The Ivy Bookstore. Most attendees were not connected with our parish but each one was welcomed with gracious hospitality as they came through the doors into our sanctuary. Sunday morning 3 ‘strangers’ from the night before came back to worship with us and have now completed their newcomer card.
So, dear parish, during this unexpectedly frigid week, it seems appropriate to take this opportunity to thank you for your warmth. David and Cristina join me in recognizing your genuine interest in welcoming the stranger. It reflects that passage from John that speaks to both the welcome of the ‘stranger’ along with the testimony from those ‘strangers’. Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the church. (3 John 1:5)
I conclude with a beautiful reflection from Rumi, the 13th century Persian Sunni Muslim poet, mystic and theologian:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks