September 24, 2015

Real Hospitality Doesn’t Grumble

1 Peter 4:7-11

Practice hospitality.

—  Romans 12:13

Barb and her son, Ryan, left their previous church because they were not welcome. Ryan is in his 30s, has intellectual disabilities, and sometimes acts out. Sometime later, Ryan became involved with a Friendship group, and he and Barb began attending Sunday morning worship at the church that hosted the group. One Sunday morning, several times during the sermon, Ryan made shriek-like screams. He was frightening people in church. Pastor Steve wondered what to do. After several times, Steve paused from preaching and asked Ryan gently, “Are you okay?” Then he prayed for Ryan and Barb. After that, Ryan felt peace, and he and Barb stayed till the end of the service.

But what would happen after the service? Would they be asked to leave this church too? No. People gathered around Ryan and Barb, saying, “Please don’t let this keep you from coming here. We want you to stay.” A few months later, Barb professed her faith in Jesus Christ at that church, and Ryan was baptized.

If Pastor Steve had been kind to Ryan and Barb but others in the church did not affirm them, they would not have stayed. Ryan and Barb were held in a web of loving relationships that kept them from turning away in humiliation. They stayed and joined that community of faith because they knew it was where they belonged.

Welcoming God, we praise you that Ryan and Barb found a warm, embracing church family. May we all do for others as their church did for them. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Mark Stephenson

Rev. Mark Stephenson is the Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Previously he served in two congregations in Michigan. He and his wife have four children.

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