CCC Blog

“Opening the Door”

This past Sunday our theme in worship was hospitality and we focused on Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  At the close of the sermon I told a  story from the Benedictine tradition about the need to open the door every time there’s a knock on the other side, for we never know when it might be Christ himself showing up for a visit. 

Throughout my ministry, people have always knocked on the door from time to time looking for assistance.  Usually they’re seeking financial assistance - help with a light bill, rent, gas, medicine but sometimes food as well.  Long ago I  copied Matthew 5:42 on a piece of paper - “give (something) to everyone who asks of you” – and kept it on my desk so that I would remember to make time for those knocks on the door and do my best to give “something” to them.  Sometimes that means directing them to MAX; or offering to pray with them.  And sometimes it is giving actual financial assistance. 

These drop-in visits are almost always an inconvenience.  I always have something I’m working on.  And the knocks on the door nearly always “disrupt” my schedule.  Even though I invite every single person who drops-in to join us for worship on Sunday, rarely in 20 years has this happened.  Moreover, some of the knocks on the door come from those who are somewhat regular. Persistently regular.  One woman comes to mind.  She came 5 or 6 times in one year. Sometimes the church I served gave her something, sometimes we didn’t.  But after a year of this happening, I sat down and I told her, “we can’t continue doing this.  Either you commit to becoming a member of the church and we can work with you on longer-term strategies – or we can’t help you in this way anymore.”  She said, “Yes, I understand.”  But she never came back.   

One day about 8 years ago, a man dropped in.  We sat in the office and he told me his situation.  He had a job lined up but wouldn’t get his first paycheck until after his rent was due.  He was trying to reconcile with his wife and children and having an apartment was an important part of this.  If he could just get $75, he could bridge the gap.  I talked with the landlord and verified the $75 deficit and decided to give him the “bridge grant” was looking for. 

A month later, he came back.  Of course I was in the middle of something and when I saw him I thought  “Oh no, not now.  I’m busy.  I just know he wants something else.  Didn’t I just tell him a month ago that $75 was all we had to offer at the time.  Why is he coming back?”  But I dragged myself up out of the chair and opened the door.  I was getting ready to offer my prepared speech about how we had just helped him and it was not our practice to give emergency grants more than once in a six-month period.  But before I could speak, he said,  “Pastor, I just wanted to come back and say thank you for the $75.  I was able to keep my apartment, I have a good job now, and my wife and kids have moved back in with me.”  Needless to say, I was surprised, but also inspired.  And thankful for the lesson he taught me about how the judgments we can make when there’s a knock at the door and how they are sometimes shattered when we answer it.

Blessings – Michael

 

Posted by Michael Karunas with

1_23 E-Votional

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  -  Hebrews 13:2

Our theme this week in worship is hospitality and we will focus on a story from Genesis 18 in which Abraham and Sarah show hospitality to “strangers” who turn out to be angels in disguise revealing a divine message of great importance to them.  The conclusion from this story, echoed in Hebrews 13:2, is clear: we never know exactly how, when, where and in whom God may show up and pay us a visit.  Being hospitable to others is a way of ensuring that we don’t miss that message.

At a regional youth event, probably 15 years ago by now, I sat with a group from our church during the opening worship in the hotel’s grand banquet room.  We were sitting on the far-left hand side of the audience, approximately half-way back.  A praise band performed, different speakers spoke words of introduction about the weekend’s theme, and we (in the audience) were standing up and sitting down quite a bit.  All throughout this time, I happened to notice a strange man.  He was dressed in what looked like “coveralls” – some sort of uni-garment – with a stocking cap on his head.  Even from way off, one could tell his clothes were old and dirty.  He would walk slowly throughout the banquet room, shuffling his feet, and sitting down every so often.  After a few minutes he’d get up, shuffle on a little more and sit down in another open seat.  Once he even shuffled over to an empty seat in the row in front of us, before continuing on.

When it came time for the keynote speaker to give the opening address, this man was shuffling his way near the stage.  I’m sure I was not the only one who was, by now, wondering who this guy was and why he was in the room.  But as the minister at the microphone completed her introduction and spoke the keynoter’s name, the man in the coveralls climbed the stairs, turned, took off his hat, unzipped and stepped out of his uni-garment and introduced himself as the featured guest.

Perhaps, as you were reading these words just now, you could see where this was leading.  But his point that night was clear.  While he admitted that no one treated him poorly or asked him to leave the banquet room, no one approached him, asked him his name, offered a chair to sit in, or showed him anything else that we might consider a gesture of kindness, mercy, compassion or hospitality.  It was, rather, as though he were invisible. 

As Christians, we live in the world and yet we are not of the world.  In the world, we are (sometimes rightfully) wary and skeptical of strangers.  Yet those cautionary instincts cannot prohibit us from our higher, not-of-the-world calling to show hospitality to strangers – not to withhold things like kindness from them.  For who knows?  We just might be welcoming into our lives a message from God that we most need to hear. 

Posted by Michael Karunas with

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