This sermon was presented at Resurrection Lutheran Church by Pastor Jim Kniseley on March 9, 2014, the First Sunday in Lent. It is based on UMC Bishop Robert Schnase’s book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The purpose of Lent is to get each and every one of us to refocus on what is most important in our Christian journey through life. I am asking you and me to make a decided decision to make living the Christian life the highest priority. I sincerely believe that an added benefit of this refocus will be the energizing of our congregation for the mission of Jesus Christ.
Our sermons for these Sundays in Lent are based on a most excellent book, The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. The author is United Methodist Bishop Robert Schnase. Bishop Schnase says if congregations take seriously these five practices, it would make a tremendous difference in advancing the mission of Christ. What are these 5 practices?
*Radical Hospitality (today’s theme)
*Intentional Faith Development
*Risk-Taking Mission and Service
Now, practicing hospitality doesn’t seem like anything new. Of course we as Christians are supposed to do that. But “Radical Hospitality” means acting in a way that is drastically different from the normal. It means we see the purpose of Christian Hospitality is so important that we can never again let it be haphazard or casual.
Jesus says in Matthew 25, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me…just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5, “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.”
Just think, when folks come to worship here God is working through us to welcome them and show his love. We are part of God’s plan for mission and invitation. Isn’t it important, therefore, that we do our part in the best way we possibly can?
Here at Resurrection we depend on volunteers to fulfill so many vital roles. Our worship services are a great illustration of how many folks are needed. My prayer and invitation to you today is to take seriously your part in not only volunteering to help at worship, but also to fulfill your responsibility in such a way that you see yourself as part of Christ’s mission.
Bishop Schnase asks what would be the report if a “secret visitor” came to Resurrection today and afterward reported his/her experience of Christian hospitality? Often the experience starts with getting out of the car in the parking lot. Are other folks coming to worship friendly and greet them? At the door do the official greeters look them in the eye, smile and welcome them? Are the ushers smiling and welcoming and help them find a seat when things are full or the service has already started? During the Sharing of the Peace and after worship, do lots of folks go out of their way to greet newcomers or just talk to people they already know?
Radical Hospitality involves invitation. I really applaud the efforts of some of you who are coming up with activities and events that are outside of Sunday morning. We know that sometimes coming to worship can be a bit intimidating for first timers. The Christmas Caroling at the Towne Center Mall was a great idea, as is the monthly Theology Pub at Park Lane, and this Wednesday’s Simple Gifts Concert, and our March 22nd Family Potluck and Celtic Music. I was really impressed with the youth group’s bowling night at Liberty Lanes and noticed what a great way it provided to invite family and friends to a non-threatening evening with fellow Christians. Inviting the youth and parents from Christ Lutheran was a great idea.
I am asking you to do something this morning in order to respond to the invitation to practice “Radical Hospitality.” I want you to step up to the plate; I want you to volunteer to serve as an ambassador of Christ in our worship services. Please take out your Worship Assistant List and see what areas we need (Altar Guild, Acolytes, Audio Visual, Greeters, Ushers, Assisting Ministers, Lector, Communion Assistants, Council Person, Nursery Attendant, Coffee Hour, Altar Flowers, Communion Elements). You can either sign up at the display in the narthex or write on your “For the Record” that you are willing to help in one or more areas and want to be contacted.
Let me conclude with this thought from Bishop Schnase, “The Five Practices have transformed the lives of hundreds of congregations and thousands of Christian disciples. I pray that (your congregation) can become fruitful beyond measure for the purposes of Christ. And I pray that these five weeks may be a time of spiritual growth for you as we deepen the practices that help us follow Christ.”
To this we say “Thanks be to God.” Amen!