At its heart, this theme is about hospitality. And if that seems insignificant to you, then you need to reread the Bible and see just how vital to the essence of the people of God hospitality really is. How we view and thus treat others is the core of our faith in many ways. In our text this week, the fledgling church is asked to step out of its comfort zone and embrace those who have traditionally been seen as the enemy, or at least as strangers to be feared and avoided. Now they are considered a potential part of the family of God, fellow followers of Jesus Christ.
This would be a good time to review the hospitality function of your church. How are strangers welcomed; how are guests received; what systems and plans exist to help people navigate their way through the programs and ministries, not to mention the buildings of the church? It could be time to feature and thank ushers and greeters, official and unofficial hosts, and those who make everyone feel at home in this community. But perhaps most important, it is time to remind the whole congregation that hospitality is not the job of a few select individuals and/or teams, but it is in the hands of everyone. It is not a task, in other words, but rather a way of being the church at work.
Who is in and who is out is the question before us today. Our prayers draw attention to the forgotten ones in our wider communities, the overlooked, the marginalized. However we describe them, every neighborhood has them, every city and town pushes certain people away. How do we issue an honest welcome to those who don’t feel welcomed anywhere? How do we counter the perception of being judgmental and condemning and present ourselves as those who see everyone as a beloved child of God?
What Peter needed was a new way of seeing. Can we pray to have our eyes opened? Can we sing songs that will invite the Spirit to “Open my eyes, that I may see”? We tend to sing that song thinking it is about seeing God at work in the world, and it is. But it is seeing the whole world as a worthy vessel for God’s grace; it is changing our attitude and our approach to this world in which we live so that we see with God’s eyes of love and not a limited vision of fear. What God has called clean is bigger and more inclusive than we might realize.
We all be Gentiles here.
Highborn and lowborn
Teachers and store clerks
Welfare and engineers
Krumpers and blue collar
Gentiles all the same.
We all be Gentiles here
We all be clean.
Safiyah Fosua, The Africana Worship Book, For Year C, Valerie Bridgeman Davis, PhD and Safiyah Fosua, eds., (Discipleship Resources, 2008), 39.
Prayer of Confession
(inspired by Acts 11:1-18)
God of the clean and the unclean,
we too easily think we can see from your point of view.
We exclude, hold grudges and nurse contempt,
all the while hiding ourselves
for fear we too would be found wanting.
We think we are justified
because we are made holy by your love,
and we assume holiness means more like us.
We forget, or never really knew,
that all you touch is holy,
and that you created all that is.
So when we exclude, we exclude you.
When we hold grudges, we hate you.
When we show contempt,
we are contemptuous of those you love.
May we be made holy in truth,
loving as you love, clean and unclean alike.
Written by Rev. Doug Hagler, Calvary Presbyterian Church of Wyncote, PA, and posted on LiturgyLink, https://www.liturgylink.net. Reposed on re:Worship, https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2016/04/prayer-of-confession-clean-and-unclean.html.