Imagine this scenario- you have been very busy, a stream of visitors have just left leaving you with lots of clearing and tidying to do, there is hardly anything in the fridge or the cupboards, and you are tired. You decide that today you are going to rest, tomorrow you will go shopping and do the housework, not today. So you make yourself comfortable and settle down to listen to some relaxing music and to read a book.
An hour later you are disturbed by the door bell, and open the door to find yourself met by huge smiles, your cousins have dropped in for a surprise visit; they have brought their teenage children with them. How do you respond? How do you feel? How are you going to offer them the hospitality they are seeking? Are you able to say come in, take me as I am?
I guess to a certain extent this depends on the type of person you are, but I suspect that none of us would turn them away. The challenge they are presenting us with is one of hospitality, and how we might offer it....
Radical hospitality is something Jesus practised, this story is a true story from an American Pastor:
I was leaving church one evening as the Alcoholic Anonymous meeting was about to adjourn. I noticed a man crouched over the hood of a rusty Ford and introduced myself as one of the pastors. He sighed and told me how long he had intended to "get back to church." I invited him to worship. His face flushed and he launched into the story of his life. It was the familiar string of regrets and loss that accompany addiction. We shared a prayer and said, "Good night." As I was walking to my car, he called after me with urgency. "Did you mean what you said?" "About what?" I asked, "Did you mean that 1 could come to this church?" Driving home, it occurred to me that he had told me his life’s story as a response to my invitation. It was his polite way of explaining why he couldn't take me up on my offer. He felt he wasn’t "clean enough" to be included in our congregation.
I never saw him again. I wish my response to his questions had been more direct. I wish I had simply repeated the words of Christ. I wish I had said, "Come and see."
Come in, take me as I am, if we might struggle to extend such a welcome to our family who drop by for a surprise visit, how might we welcome people into the church? Do we get dressed up in our Sunday best? Can we respond with Jesus words to those who followed him..."Come and see?
Jesus invitation to follow him, to come and see turned out to be a hallmark of his ministry as he welcomed prostitutes and tax collectors, touched lepers and even dead bodies for the hospitality of Jesus was controversial. He chafed against the limits of social propriety his hospitality knew no limit. It was not just indiscriminate: it was promiscuous He received Pharisees and sinners alike, and often his sharpest criticism was reserved for the former!
His welcome was gracious, he shared words and relationship, for he had nothing else to give, fancy meals were provided by others, and yet somehow this guest was the host bringing the love of God to the conversation enfolding his hearers in grace, giving and receiving at the same time.
Come and see....Jesus invitation was central to the incarnation. Through his promiscuous hospitality, Jesus reenacts the gracious being of’ the Triune God. The Trinity calls into question everything we assumed about the structure of reality. We live not in a world of divisions ruled over by a supreme being, but in a universe tightly bound and called into being by the God who desires intimacy with us. Divine hospitality lies at the heart of creation. It is also the source of our redemption. For we are invited to join the eternal dance a dance that knows no limits as more and more people are welcomed to join, to catch the heartbeat rhythm of life...Come and see....
We do not need to hide behind masks of social niceties, or laden tables, Jesus challenge to us is to open our hearts to him and to others, to respond to his invitation Come and see, and then in turn to extend that invitation.
We live in a world where suspicion of others is almost epidemic, even is apparently quiet Norfolk, in Downham Market the Town Council are working to ensure that teenagers are unwelcome in various areas in the town by fitting mosquito devices. The Church by contrast is trying to create an open door, inviting the young folk in, recognising them as valuable. Our invitation is simple; Come and see....
Come and see... you are welcome, come and see..... by issuing the invitation we create an open door, extend a welcome and provide the possibility of a new relationship, one where we may find ourselves changed by the God who meets us in unexpected people, and finds us in unexpected places.
Come and see...Jesus calls us to follow him....