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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Guests are 'gifts from God'

I've been thinking about dwelling in the word. First, I thought of the significance of the written word of God in my life. Next I thought of the preached word, sermons that have helped encourage, inspire and direct me. Then I thought of God's spoken word through family, friends and mentors who both affirmed and chastised me.

Finally, I thought of one word my parents shared: hospitality. They didn't even have to say it. I heard it and saw it practiced. They were not perfect parents by any means, but they taught their children about hospitality. As far back as I can remember, my parents opened their home to expected and unexpected guests.

Regardless of tribe, political affiliation and language preference (all of which are potentially dividing), my parents welcomed guests and taught us, their children, that guests are "gifts from God."

Some guests wanted a place to spend the night; others came for an extended period of time. Not all guests were nice and thankful. Some guests were easy to entertain; others were demanding. Some were happy; others had many problems. Yet my parents made an intentional decision to welcome "the other" regardless of cost.

But their children — those of us who wash the dirty feet of strangers, those of us who cook and feed those strangers — were not always happy about this influx to our home. At times I must admit that we made their stay uncomfortable. Did our parents know about it? No!

What does this have to do with dwelling in the word? During this time of restructuring, transitioning, reforming and re-emerging as a missional church, the ELCA again has made intentional choices. The church sees God's welcome, not as an optional or a rare spiritual gift but as a normative biblical practice and call in our life together.

On this faith journey, all of us are guests and all of us are hosts. In spite of our conscious choices, policies and decisions about hospitality in its many forms, it won't be perfect. We are reminded of those tensions and encouraged as we see signs of God's power working in and through this church — transforming lives and renewing hopes locally and globally.


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