Almost 30 years ago, as a 13-year-old Year 9 boarding school student, I turned up at a suburban Presbyterian church in Sydney with a couple of Year 12 students. That Sunday we were invited back to lunch at a retired single woman’s house just down the road. The next Sunday we were invited to lunch at the house of a family with young children . . . And so it went on. I later learned that there were a range of people in that congregation who came to church ready most weeks to invite new people back to their house for lunch. It was semi-organised but also just an example of people being ready and prepared to be hospitable. Over time lots of people opened their homes and their lives to me and to the other people who came to church with me. I ended up living with one of the families in my final year at high school. Another family’s house became a second home to many of us – and still is for me to this day. These were the people who supported me recently during my time in Sydney and came to my aunt’s funeral. I am so thankful for the impact of the hospitality and embrace of this church community on my life and the lives of my friends, many of whom are from non-Christian families. Strong teaching, programs and discipling accompanied this love, embrace and hospitality. And they have been faithful pray-ers and supporters of many of us through the decades as we have spread all over Australia and the world. What a blessing this has been and what a rich example.
This leads me to ponder how we might be participants in stories like these. Indeed, I know that we are in various ways. The embrace and welcome that many people find at St Philips is rich and real, and the hospitality shown by many of us speaks deeply to those in our lives. But I wonder how we might take that the next step and as a community.
I’ve recently read a book called The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield, and I was encouraged by the author’s commitment to hospitality for both her church community and her neighbours and the way these intermingled. This involved shaping her life around it. It’s not an after-thought (even though it will often be unplanned).
This weekend we will hear from James about The Common and, I imagine, stories of how shared life, hospitality and presence with people is being transformative. I wonder what it would be like for each of us to take another step or two in that direction? Imagine the potential if we all did that. How might the Kingdom come through us more deeply and richly if we did? Will you join me in asking God how he’d have us join with Him in this way and what the next steps might be for you individually and for us together?