Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 12 – Tuesday after 2nd Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Much as I enjoy visiting other churches when on holiday or off-duty I always dread the moment when I am rumbled as a vicar. I try hard to not look too knowledgeable about the service. I have deliberately mumbled hymns; a hard task as I am a bit noisy and have been asked if I am the evil twin of the man from the ‘Go Compare’ advert. I even resist the temptation to join in saying ‘Amen’ loudly and whisper the responses to prayers. No matter what I do every single time I go somewhere else I am singled out as a visiting vicar. It feels as if I have been exposed as a Fifth Columnist of the Good News!
It is a human trait, used for good or ill, to put people into boxes. When done with ill intent it leads to Auschwitz and Apartheid. However when done with openness, humility, and care, it can lead to that elusive idea known as ‘mutual flourishing’ which the Church of England is struggling to find at present.
The truth of welcoming others into our fellowship is simply this. If we can ‘pigeon-hole’ the visiting vicar on holiday we can use the same skill-set to identify the ‘newcomer’ in our fellowships. We know who they are but, as the cartoon illustrates, we do not appear to be very good at turning tourists into pilgrims, and visitors into worshippers. Why is this?
Sometimes, when it comes to welcoming newcomers Christian suffer from the ‘Goldilocks syndrome’. In our quest to be ‘just right’, we easily end up being too hot or too cold, too big or too small, too soft or too hard. The sad truth is that if we do not get things ‘just right’ for newcomers then, like Goldilocks, they will be tempted to scream ‘help’ and run out of the House of God never to be seen again. There is a thin line between the good-to-see-you-please-help-with-Sunday-school and the not-sure-we-want-to-put-you-off-by-asking-your-name approach!
What are we to do? Well firstly, we must do something, preferably something godly. Those who wander into our churches have been called to be there (however tenuously we may judge their presence) by the gentle whisperings of the Holy Spirit. If ‘strangers’ can hear Her voice then we had better be listening ourselves!
Personally, I know that sometimes my problem is that I make a sharp division between ‘us’ and ‘them’. It is too easy to see the newcomer as an outsider rather than someone who is already part of the Body of Christ. After all God so loved ‘the world’ and not just ‘the church’ that Jesus came to be our saviour and judge of everyone (John 3.16-17).
And there is our problem. It is oh so very easy to meet someone different and rush to judge rather than redeem. When we meet new faces in church, we have no idea of the journey that has brought them there. Some may be vicars on holiday, some may be people taking the first tentative steps of faith, but all are equally cherished by Our Beloved and so should be equally loved by the rest of His family.
If we could but see newcomers as recently discovered members of our family, gathering to meet us to celebrate our common kinship then we will resist the temptation to ‘harvest’ them as ‘pew fodder’ or ignore them as some sort of nuisance to our regular routine.
Perhaps it may help, whenever we see a newcomer to remember these words….
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
God of mountain, river and plain,
of scattered centres and rural town,
of people black and white,
inspire us by your Spirit
with the message of your Good News,
and fill us with desire to share your love with all.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Anglican Diocese of Bathurst. Australia
- Have a look at the physical parts of your church welcome after the service. Is it easy for newcomer to join the coffee circle? May be along with the welcome, you may want to look at the coffee and the tea. Good (Fair-trade) refreshments show visitors that you care for them…
- Find the person who is lonely after church and sit with them.
‘Everybody Welcome’ is a helpful programme to make all aspects of your church a place where no one feels left out:
‘Faith Pictures’ is a free resource from The Church Army to help people look at their own Faith Journey and share it with others:
This year from Ascension Day to Pentecost the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are asking Christians everywhere to pray for their friends to come to know Jesus:
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017