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You Are Most Welcome…

This is probably going to come out as a bit of a jumble.

I’m on holiday, but really struggling to switch off.

Read Paul Merton from “Have I Got News For You” fame, he writes movingly in his autobiography “Only when I laugh” about his partner Sarah’s breast cancer (which ultimately took her life).

“I walked to St Augustine’s Church, which was only a few minutes away . It was the Church in Fulham that I used to be taken to as a child. The Church was empty inside, I sat down three rows from the back. I relaxed my shoulders, and let out a deep breath. A moment of quiet solitude. Within moments, the mood was broken by a bustling woman rattling keys. “The Church is closed, there is nothing for you here, the church is closed. She was right about that, I left without a murmur”.

Deep within his subconscious he was seeking for God and yet the Church threw him out, thinking of how the rest of the book could have looked of a loving supporting community caring for Paul and Sarah through the last days of her life and comfort in the pain of bereavement.

So often we see so many missed opportunities within the Church and maybe missed opportunities in each one of us with our daily walk.

As I thought about this some more, it made me think of the amazing gift that is our time, and I think if I had a time machine I would be more generous with giving it away, and somehow need to translate this into practice into the present and the future.

Thinking today about welcome and acceptance, whilst seeing the horrors of the terrorist attack on London bridge across the TV screen, Allana texted back home to ask how Kings Krew (our All Age Congregation) went, and it turned out that some Muslims as the start of their Ramadan visited the Church and gave us cake. I wonder would we as Christians do something like this for them, at Christmas or Easter? -Sadly I doubt it.

These guys also give regularly to the foodbank, and allowed us to come to their mosque as a visit.

It also made me think afresh that sometimes accepting someone’s generosity is part of hospitality and welcome, allowing someone to serve us can be a really humbling experience to be a blessing to them.

As I was challenged by their warmth and hospitality.

As I scrolled down Facebook and saw posts from a Christian suggesting we put Muslims in interment camps.

I’ve been at Churchy events with the homeless and disenfranchised and been told loudly (in front of the people) to not leave your coat lying about as “they’ll nick it”, struck again by our suspicion of those not like us, and how fear shuts down our welcome and hospitality.

Also stereotyping and suspicion will spoil relationships if we ‘tar everyone with the same brush’ “all muslims are murders” or “all homeless steal” cause us to build walls between us, seeing people as groupings rather than individuals.

Then when we think of welcome and hospitality I realise afresh that we reflect our God who welcomed us when we were his enemies, dead in our sin, and yet welcomed us like the loving Father in the story of the prodigal son who runs to meet us, embracing us when we smelt of the pig sty were penniless and destitute, and whose welcome was extravagant throwing a party and causing the fatted calf to be slaughtered, cooked and shared.

Too often however our relationships are never formed as we don’t realise the potential they have o grow. If we go to the Paul Merton story, the lady was focused on the task -locking up- and missed the person. I wonder how many relationships are there all around us but never allowed to flourish, I’ve discovered the great network of little relationships when walking the dog or dropping my daughter Hope off at school or Rainbows. I believe that every opportunity for human interaction can be also be a catalyst for an advancement of the Kingdom of God.

I remember hearing many years ago now from a tutor at Moorlands college about how she did some coaching on relationships and she shared this idea that every human encounter can be an opportunity for Kingdom advancement with some guys on a short weeks course at a Methodist Bible College. The students took this idea and ran with it as they went off to lunch, they chatted to the people serving the food, and at the end of the week they got the catering and house-keeping staff a box of chocolates and a bunch of flowers. The head house-keeper cried and said she had worked at this college for 14 years and had never even had so much as a card to say “thank you” for all their efforts.

So, let’s knock the walls down, lets take the risk on meeting people, let’s see the Kingdom advance and welcome everyone with the love and extravagance that God has shown (and continues to show) each one of us.

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