As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Wednesday 1st July 2020
One of the things that many of us have found difficult over the last few months is not being able to invite friends and relatives into our homes. And that is something that has been especially hard for people on their own. It was good that the Scottish government relaxed their restrictions last week. People who are on their own are now allowed to form an extended household with another household without the need for physical distancing. We have now been able to connect with an aunt who is over 90. But it is not only hospitality in our homes that has been affected by physical distancing. As the local parish church, it has been really difficult not to be able to welcome people into the building.
Under current regulations, reopening the church for Sunday services is not yet permitted. And even if we were able it would involve cordoning off pews, a strict cleaning regime, provision of sanitisation, masks, ensuring people sit 2 metres away from each other, regulating entry to and exit from the building. And there is good reason for all of this. As other countries have moved out of lock-down, churches have been at the centre of new outbreaks of Covid-19. In America one rural congregation saw 35 people, 40% of its congregation, contract Covid 19 and sadly three died. A Roman Catholic church in Texas closed for the second time after a priest died 2 weeks after Mass resumed. In Germany more than 40 people who attended a service in the Lutheran Church were diagnosed with Covid-19. Because of the nature of many of the actions that are a part of communal worship – gathering people together, singing, the sacraments, even welcoming people at the door - it is not surprising that churches services are categorised as high risk.
Matthew 10: 40-42
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
In Matthew’s Gospel we find Jesus rounding off his instructions to his disciples with some words about welcome and hospitality. But these words take our understanding of hospitality to a whole new level. In Jesus day the ethic of welcome was part of a culture that had grown up over thousands of years. It was not simply about welcoming someone as an individual – it was about honouring that individual, accepting them for who they were and also honouring those connected with their lives.
The kind of hospitality that Jesus invites of his disciples is about making space for the stranger. It was this concept of welcome that Jesus modelled throughout his ministry. The first disciples of Jesus weren’t being told simply to welcome people into their homes (and they didn’t have worship spaces!) The first disciples were being sent out into the world not only to offer hospitality to those whom they encountered but also to receive it themselves. The disciples are called to represent Christ to the stranger but also to encounter Christ in the stranger. True hospitality is a two-way process – an exchange – where we open ourselves to one another. And somehow in that exchange of hospitality at its deepest level all involved encounter Jesus.
• Those suffering from or bereaved by the corona virus
• The NHS, its staff in hospitals and GP practices as well as the other emergency services and volunteers
• The Government and Scottish Parliament and their advisers as they seek to guide us out of lockdown
• All those in education as they seek to reorganise schools for the safe return of children to classes
• All whose lives have been impacted by slavery in the past and today
• The Windrush generation
• Family, friends and neighbours, those most affected by the lock-down and those finding it difficult to move forward
• Other people and situations who are in your hearts today.
• The Church that we might offer a faithful witness to Christ through this time.
we come to you
as we often do,
knowing that you
are waiting with open arms,
ready to welcome us,
Yet united in spirit.
so often the recipient of hospitality
and yet willing to sit with anyone,
saint and sinner alike
we come to you
knowing you are prepared to make space
and let us sit with you.
so often hidden from sight
and yet so large a part
of any gathering of God’s people,
we come to you
knowing that the whispers of welcome
are all around us.
Knowing we are welcomed
and yet knowing that we
have not always been deserving of that welcome
We seek your forgiveness now
For the things we have thought or said or done
That have been hurtful to others
To You and to ourselves
As well as for the things we have not
Thought said or done,
That we should have……
your wide arms of grace, O God,
are too much to take in.
When we come
with our heads dipped in shame
you gently lift our chins,
gaze into our eyes,
and say: welcome child,
so good to see you.
Lord, may we never take this for granted,
But try harder to live up to your gracious welcome,
accept your love and, in turn,
offer that same love and welcome
to all whom we meet.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever.
May the Father’s hand
keep you from stumbling,
the footprints of Jesus
give you confidence to follow,
and the fire of the Spirit
keep you warm and safe
in your walk with God this day.