Gray began a series of Lenten sermons yesterday focusing on one of the 5 practices of fruitful congregations; radical hospitality. If you were in worship, you heard him tell the story of a pastor who learned a lesson about hospitality from a 94 year old woman who befriended him while he served her country church.
I immediately connected with this story because when I was a seminarian I became one in the line of many student pastors who filled the pulpit of Grayville Presbyterian Church in Grayville, Illinois. Beginning in January of 1981,
I would drive 135 miles from Louisville, KY to serve the role of pastor at the ripe old age of twenty three.
The members of this rural church taught me many lessons in hospitality. One of their primary missions was to allow a student minister to learn how to preach weekly, provide pastoral care and work with the session before they graduated and went out into the "big world." When I reflect upon their hospitality, I'm indebted to them (as well as those who preceded and proceeded me) because we were all beginners.
But they didn't want us to think of ourselves as beginners. I think they understood how fragile our preacher esteem was for all us neophytes. So they gave us a gift at the beginning of our tenure. One that they were able to enjoy when we strode up to the pulpit and one that allowed us to feel grown up.
I'm proud to say that this month marks the 35 year that I have worn the robe that the kind members of Grayville Presbyterian Church presented to me in the winter of 1981. I was so proud to dawn this robe and its newness was like wearing a freshly pressed suit.
As I listened to Gray preach about hospitality, I thought of my robe and the people of Grayville. Their hospitality paid it forward and little did they know that this traveling robe, presented 35 years ago would find its home at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church.
Prayer for Today
God of grace and God of glory, we thank you for the gift of hospitality. Help us to see that so much of our lives is based in gift, the kindness of strangers, and the sacrificial love of others. In the name of Christ, we thank you. Amen.