My apologies to anyone who read the subject line and got excited that I was going to bring some big theological point out of the Netflix series. I actually haven’t watched it, but I did see some strange behavior towards strangers this past Sunday.
After 8:30 worship, I finished greeting people by the door, only to look back and see Casey Wiley chatting with a couple that I knew had never been to Creekwood before. Casey isn’t a greeter or hasn’t been told to do this intentionally; he just welcomed a stranger. Sure enough, when I went to the Agape class, there was Casey along with the new couple that he’d just welcomed.
After 11:00 worship, I broke away to catch some people in the lobby I also knew haven’t frequented Creekwood. I went out to introduce myself, and simultaneously, Mike Mints was doing the same. Again, while Mike serves as an usher, no one asked him to do this. He was just doing what nearly every Biblical book tells us to do: “Welcome the stranger.”
I think my favorite scripture pertaining to hospitality is from 1 Peter 4:9: “Be hospitable to each other without grumbling.” Hebrews 13:2-4 is much more positive: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Peter is a little more direct, which he feels he has to be. 1 Peter 4 assumes that Jesus is coming back any moment and he wants his community to mirror the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus is bringing its fullness. In the Kingdom of Heaven, the ideal of Eden, we don’t grumble when presented the opportunity to make some feel welcome and included. We do it because we are reflections of the image of God, who invites everyone to the heavenly feast. Our job, is to make sure they want to accept that invitation by showing what the atmosphere around the table will be like.
Our Bishop, Mike McKee, ends every single sermon with the same benediction that I find meaningful. Especially this portion: “Bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that the stranger you meet might find in you a generous friend.” Thank you to Casey and Mike for being two of many wonderful examples of bearing witness to the hospitable, welcoming love of God.