Did you know that the pineapple is a sign of welcome?
You may have noticed that in some countries the shape of the pineapple is carved into doorposts. Some people think that the custom goes back to Christopher Columbus when he was on one of his voyages of discovery. Apparently in one place they discovered that a pineapple had been left at the place where they were staying and they realised that this was the local people telling them that the visitors were welcome to their land. In time the custom spread to other parts of the world.
When Jesus sent out his disciples to tell people about God he prepared them for both hospitality and rejection.
I wonder – who do we welcome into our lives? Who do we reject?
Is our hospitality only for a limited number of people, the ones we already know, mostly relatives and a few close friends?
In its original form, “hospitality” combines two separate words – one meaning friend and the other meaning stranger suggesting the idea of making friends out of strangers.
What about our church – how welcoming are we to people who come for the first time or come back after a long period of time?
It is so easy when we are so familiar with our building and our services to forget how it feels to walk through the doors of our church for the first time and it’s so important that we remember that and help new people to feel welcome.
We forget that for some people, coming into church is a big deal.
Maybe some people don’t feel good enough?
Perhaps some are not sure what will happen – will they know when to stand up and sit down?
It isn’t easy to open our doors to strangers, especially strangers who come from a different background or way of life to ours. But when we do, we might just find Jesus standing there disguised as a stranger.
Sometimes we confuse hospitality with entertaining.
Entertaining says, ” I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.”
Hospitality says ” This home is a gift from God and I want to use it for him.
Hospitality aims to serve.
Entertaining puts things before people.
When we get the new kitchen in, when we finish decorating the hall; when I have everything looking the way I want it – then I’ll start inviting people.
With hospitality people come first.
We haven’t got a dining table, but we could always eat on our knees!
The sitting room could do with painting where the children wrote on the wall, but you are very welcome just as we are.
The house isn’t very tidy, but you’re friends so please come.
Entertaining says, please admire my lovely house which we’ve worked so hard to put together.
Hospitality says, we may not have a palace but you are welcome to share what we have.
But how far are we prepared to go to be welcoming?
There is a lovely story of hospitality when Henri Nouwen, the great spiritual writer was going to a monastery for a retreat. The monks observed vows of silence and the retreat was to be meditative and prayerful. Nouwen was delayed and was late getting to the monastery on that miserable, rainy night. He rang the bell, well after bedtime, and was met at the door by one of the brothers. The brother warmly greeted him, took his wet coat, brought him to the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. They chatted in the late night hours and Nouwen began to relax and feel ready for the retreat. But he knew this monk was supposed to observe silence, so he finally asked him “Why are you willing to sit and talk with me?” The monk replied ” Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of my order, none is higher than Hospitality. Of all the duties of the Christian faith and the rules of the Church, none is higher than hospitality. Our highest duty is to welcome the stranger to help visiters to feel relaxed and at ease in this place.
Nothing is more important on Sunday morning, and all during the week, than to welcome people into the life of the church, into the fellowship of this corner of the Christian community.
I remember occasions when we went to churches on holiday when our children were small. Sometimes the churches that looked very good on the outside and were beautiful on the inside; preached great sermons and produced wonderful music, were so busy with their own affairs and catching up with each other that we were ignored and made to feel distinctly unwelcome.
The early Christian church began to grow and develop it is said that by the fourth century the churches in Rome were feeding around 20,000 poor people each week. The church was providing a loving alternative to what was going on in society.
When Christianity started it was a new social dimension. Christianity wasn’t so much a doctrine as a community. The first Christians wanted to share their message of what Jesus had done but, from its earliest day the church was a place of fellowship a place of welcome and ;love. And that welcome is for everyone whoever they may be.
it’s so easy to be critical of one another and not realise that our words can be hurtful and even those in leadership need words of encouragement at times
“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones….none of these will lose their reward.