‘Therefore, you are no longer strangers or foreigners but members of Gods household.’ (Eph 2:19)
It could be argued that I became a Christian because of a birthday card…. Not one I received, but one I signed. It was my first ever time going to any sort of Christian gathering, a church youth group, and I didn’t really know anyone. I stood in the kitchen, trying to make small talk with a guy a few years older (and by that logic way cooler than myself) when one of the leaders piped up that someone was celebrating a birthday and that we should all sign the card. The guy I was talking to clearly knew the celebrant and took me with him as he went out back to scrawl his name. What happened next honestly did change my life… He handed me the pen. Pretty unremarkable right? Nothing to write home about, but for me it was huge. I had been handed pens before – of course I had! Guernsey may be small but we have managed to creep at least a little way out of the dark ages, yet something was different about this. Here I was in a house I had never visited before, with someone whom I had never met, being told to sign the birthday card of someone I also did not know, and frankly did not know me – but to this guy it didn’t matter. He insisted I sign, become a part of the celebration and reassuringly he said to me;
“it’s ok, we’re all friends here”.
That was it. I signed. My name was there amongst the others, in all its glorious anonymity, for all to see. To this day I don’t know whose birthday it was, but that doesn’t matter. What mattered was this. I, a stranger, was invited in. I was told I could belong. I was made to feel welcome, a part of something, a part of the family. Because of this moment, I kept going. Every week, without fail if I could, I would go to my home away from home, where I was always welcome, where tea and cake were served in abundance, where games were played and songs were sung, where friends old and new laughed and cried, but, most importantly, where Jesus met me.
For this, in all its beautiful simplicity, is the Gospel of our Lord. The stranger is welcomed in, made to feel at home and is invited into the family of God where they can come to know their Saviour. It didn’t matter who I was or where I had come from, love and hospitality were shown to me by the bucketful. And it doesn’t matter to God.
The hospitality God shows to us is this – that even though we were once strangers, he sets a table before us and welcomes us to sit and eat with him. He cares for us, provides for us, anoints us with oil and washes our feet. He lavishes his love upon us, and in doing so invites us to do the same.
For not only is this what God does but this is what God asks us to do. He asks us to welcome the stranger, to love them and care for them, to provide for them without any hope of repayment. Hospitality isn’t just some add on to our faith, it’s a part of the very heart of God. This is what I felt when this guy handed me a pen. It may not have been much really, but it was to me.
And so, my hope is this – that we as a community, as a part of the family of God, will come to understand the hospitality he has shown to us and will share that with others.
May we always welcome the stranger, for we were all one once.