In living as an ordained disciple of Christ, there are lots of challenges. It is at its most challenging than when I sit the in kitchens, living rooms and other living spaces of those who follow with me. For example, I remember going to see a family who was coming for baptism. They had a little boy who was born into the family and they wanted to have him welcomed into the Church, so tht he could come and participate with the rest of the family. I remember that visit because the wife, sitting in a chair across the room from me, was visibly shaking because of my presence. It might have been because we were of different ethnicity and therefore cultures. There where differences in things like height, gender, and education. But we had two things in common – the desire to be followers of Jesus and the desire to welcome the little boy into the life of the community that was our congregation. The family through experiencing hospitality of the Church received a welcome and thus depended their faith and their commitment to the life into which Baptism drew them.
I can recall times when I have been welcomed into a home and the mid day meal has just been finished but my host haul every back out to make sure that my needs are looked after – including the rabbit that still had the head on. There would be tea, bread with jam, and cookies of all sorts. It was difficult to say no and not just because of the cooking and the baking. It was hard to say no because people were offering their hospitality to care for me and sharing their lives with me. A very deep relationship comes to be a part of the congregation as the pastor moves around and shares in this way with the people he is to care for. There is a deep and abiding mutuality in sharing your life with another, which to me is what a welcome and hospitality are all about. There needs to be more hospitality shown in the life of the Church, regardless of the doctrines and opinions that each person holds. After all, Jesus himself said, “whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. Whoever welcomes not just me but the One who sent me.”
Part and parcel of being an ordained disciple means that I work to create sacred space, a living altar if you will, where people can bring their hopes and fears, their troubles and thoughts and make them known to God. Pastoral visits can be such a thing that is long remembered by those who participate n it. Such an example is a lady, very dear to me, who was also my warden. I would often (unintentionally) be there at dinner time and a bottle of stew would be heated up for my mid day repass. The family still recalls those moments and the man of the house would blame my youngest son for getting crumbs under his own chair – even when I was there without my family. There would be lots of laughter and the occasional tear or struggle.
After learning that I was diabetic, I created this new thing that a old timer called “a one legged cup of tea”. I would ask for the mug, the tea bag, the hot water, and a spoon (the leg!). I did this to do as I suggested above, to create sacred space and time between a parishioner and myself so that I could accept their hospitality and be apart of their lives for a short time.
This sometimes makes me think that we need to make every Sunday morning a back to Church service – not just for the newcomer and for those who have been away for a while, but for those who have been here for weeks, months and years on end. We gather on Sunday around the Lord’s table for a meal and to celebrate all the good thing going on and to pray for all the things that need to be prayed for because what we pray matters. As St. Paul would point out, “We walk as yet by faith, not by sight” and thus we need to communicate with God about the things going on around about us because “We only know in part and only see in part.”
And maybe I need to point out that the Church – the missional community here on earth – is to the Divine mission, as burning is to fire. The Church is not on a mission. The Church does not have a mission, it belongs to God. The Church is mission. It exists for the express purpose of drawing into its fellowship those who do not already belong to it. We live our everyday lives in such away that the world will see and hear Christ and consider him and his kingdom. We do this, one legged cup of tea at a time.