This morning (yes when it was snowing….sigh….April 29th…) we gathered around the table. We opened in prayer — it may or may not have included some commentary on the weather, and a request for some warmer temperatures. And then we began checking in; sharing times when we have received great hospitality. Stories of people housing us when we had nowhere to go, people letting us stay rent free, restaurants serving youth who didn’t have the finances typical customers would have, restaurants who gave the meal when a wallet had been forgotten, people who fed us when we didn’t have the resources to really feed ourselves, people who opened doors to different experiences, those who made us feel like we were family. And it seemed in all the stories was the theme of a reality that — this hospitality could have never been “paid” back — and this hospitality (received) shapes who we are. The question was asked too about that 2nd part of the homework, the asking for forgiveness for the times when we have not offered hospitality (or not cheerfully, or not without complaining…). One was honest enough to share when they were not able to open their home, and they felt bad — the follow-up question was however, how did it feel to ask for (& receive) the forgiveness of God?
(In that moment this went unanswered. However, as we weekly in worship come to God in a time and a prayer of confession — we confess our mistakes, our failures, our sins — to a God who already put on flesh to walk among us, who already went to the cross & died for each of us & all of our sins, who has already been risen from the dead! In our baptism we each have been grafted into the family of God — we have been baptized into the death & the resurrection of Christ — which is to say — by the blood of Christ, the gift of love, the amazingness of grace — WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. We are invited to cast our burdens unto Christ. We are invited to live into the freedom from the sins of our past — including the time(s) when we have not offered hospitality. And so — we ask forgiveness & we ask that God would continue to work in our own hearts so that we might be able to offer hospitality to others, hospitality that comforts those who mourn, helps heal those who are wounded, and allows the world to see the face of God — AMEN?!)
And we shifted. We shifted toward scripture time, with a bit of a life introduction from the person who had named the scripture we would focus on. And then we heard Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (New International Version)
And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Living Bible Translation)
We talked about “all things,” about “all that happens” about perspective and time. About how God can use things. We talked about things working out for those “called” — for those fitting into God’s plans. We recognized we don’t know God’s plans for other people. We talked about the lives of others who we see as hopeless, challenging, things that we would not want in our own lives. It was mentioned that trauma (change) invites us to either turn toward God or away from God. We named how we can wrestle with this text because it’s hard — and it doesn’t always seem to be true. And in response to someone’s frustration in not being able to see how this verse could possibly be true given what they see, one proclaimed “I know it because I have lived it.”
Scripture speaks & is alive. But sometimes (perhaps all times) it takes a bit of life to bring scripture alive for us. This week for the homework we are to write out this scripture — in a journal, on a card, somewhere. And after writing — we are to be open to see if (who) God will bring into our lives this week who might benefit from this encouragement. Maybe it will come in a passing conversation in person or on the phone, maybe the Holy Spirit will lay someone on your heart to send an email, a letter (yes the real kind with a stamp), a text, or a facebook message — I don’t know but God does. So let us write (because writing can help us remember) and let us be open to share this promise to someone who needs to hear it. I can’t wait to hear what happens when we come together round the table again.
Until then be blessed & live out that blessing in such a way that blesses the world!
~ Rev. Sabrina Slater