We were late to the church we were visiting after we’d made a wrong turn. While my husband took the children to children’s worship, I stood in the back of the sanctuary, singing hymns along with the congregation. And when the time came to greet each other, I moved to a row, shook hands with someone on the end, and asked, “Do you mind moving over? Then my husband can easily join me in a bit.”
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it (Heb. 13:2).
These days hospitality may most often be associated with a Martha Stewart-esque home decor complete with fluffed pillows and fresh flowers placed just so. In Scripture, though, it means something quite different than creating the perfect environment. Instead, hospitality refers to creating a space in which relationships can develop.
Hope Network (www.hopenetwork.org) has a large number of services to enhance the dignity and independence of persons who have a disability and/or are disadvantaged. Cornelison’s work in the West Michigan office is to connect clients to churches where all God’s people can grow in love for and ministry with each other. Over 2,100 people work in one of Hope Network’s more than 190 different locations throughout Michigan.
As the time for the worship service approaches, church members gather in the sanctuary, animatedly sharing stories about sick children, new babies, workplace conflicts. Suddenly the sanctuary light flickers on and off. Rather than showing surprise, parishioners take their seats facing the altar. There is no prelude. Pastor Dorothy Sparks smiles broadly as she makes the parish announcements. But the voice I hear is not Pastor Dorothy’s.
Preaching “is a process of transformation for both preacher and congregation alike, as the ordinary details of their everyday lives are translated into the extraordinary elements of God’s ongoing creation” (Barbara Brown Taylor, The Company of Preachers, Richard Lischer, ed., 2002). Preaching not only helps us understand God’s Word but to see and interact with God’s world as his representatives. The following article is excerpted from a speech given by Linda Larson at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Three years ago, a major construction project at First Presbyterian Church was coming to an end. As the architect put it, we were more than doubling “our footprint” on the property. Membership growth through the 1990s had made the building expansion necessary, and our members—bless ’em—had stepped up generously to support the cost, which was substantial—more, in fact, than I ever dreamed we could raise.
The little boy came running over at a church gathering. “Pastor Mary!” he said, with a finger in his mouth. “Look!” I saw a fresh gap where his tooth used to be. “Ryan!” I said. “You’ve lost your first tooth!” He grinned back. “And the one next to it is loose!”
About three blocks from our church is a little coffee shop called Bernice’s. It occupies the east half of the Knowles Building, which was designed by the prominent Missoula architect AJ Gibson in 1914. Gibson also designed the County Courthouse, Central High School, the Main Hall of the university, and First Presbyterian Church. Walking to Bernice’s from the church, you’ll pass apartment buildings, single family houses, a number of commercial establishments, and three other churches.
Every two months, at 6:00 on a Sunday evening, three to four hundred people gather at St. Mary's Church (Lutheran) in Reutlingen, and in over fifty towns throughout Germany, to participate in an ecumenical worship service called the Thomas Mass. The service is advertised with the slogan "A worship for doubters and other good Christians." The term Mass comes partly from its Lutheran roots in Finland, but it also hints at the strong liturgical aspect of the worship. Both old and modern liturgical elements have their plate in the Thomas Mass.