Uniting Church Sketty and Wesley Church, Clydach, ‘Worship from Home’ 28h June 2020
This ‘Worship from Home’ has been prepared by the Revd Leslie Noon.
Prepare for worship
Wherever you are sitting, at whatever time of day, with whatever emotions you are currently carrying, take a few moments to become aware of God’s presence
You have created for us, O God, a place in your heart where we are always and forever welcome. We acknowledge that we are people who all too often fail to love others and fail to love you, and we are deeply sorry. As we hear you speaking words of forgiveness to us now, help us to know that in you, each of us can find a place where we belong. And for this we give you our heartfelt gratitude and devotion. Amen
Hospitality is holiness
Last week, Rev Linda Woollacott helped us to think about ‘sanctuary’. Today I want us to think about something that is closely related: hospitality. The hospitality industry is making headline news this week as it prepares to re-open to guests and visitors, albeit with huge restrictions and guidelines. But the word hospitality is an interesting one. It comes from the Latin word ‘hospes’ which means ‘host / guest / stranger’. But the Latin word ‘hospes’ comes in turn from the word ‘hostis’ which means ‘stranger / enemy’ (and is where we get our English word ‘hostile’ from). Our English words ‘host, hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel’ all come from this one root.
What does this word ‘hospitality’ have to do with our readings? In our Psalm, the Psalmist cries out to God in agony, but ultimately trusts in God’s care, protection and goodness (or in other words, hospitality). And in our gospel reading Jesus teaches that receiving, welcoming and providing hospitality for even the least is how ‘righteousness’ is lived and expressed. Ultimately then, the word ‘hospitality’ may be a simple summary of this week’s theme – God’s hospitality for us, and ours for one another in God’s name, which is the ‘definition’ of righteousness. Hospitality is holiness.
But first a hymn which reflects something of God’s hospitality to us – how God holds us in his heart – and which invites us to do the same for others.
Hymn: I, the Lord of sea and sky (663)
Sing or read or pray or listen here:
No doubt during this pandemic, we, like many others have struggled at times. Here we have a psalm of lament in which the psalmist cries out to God, but also affirms his trust in God’s goodness and love.
Matthew 10: 40-42
Our gospel reading set for today is very short! Jesus teaches that those who receive prophets and righteous people will be rewarded, as will those who care for the followers of Christ.
I imagine that over the last three months many of us have both offered and received less hospitality than most periods in our lives. We haven’t been able to visit friends or host friends. We have lived in our isolated households, which is no doubt especially hard for those who live on their own.
Hospitality is often seen as an individual thing. It’s often seen to be about welcoming people into your home, offering food and drink and perhaps a comfortable bed. But I think if we concentrate only on this, we miss something vital of its biblical meaning.
I want to suggest that in its widest and perhaps original sense, it is far more than that. Hospitality is also global and local.
Firstly a thought or two about living as globally hospitable Christ followers – and this I think speaks into another story that has been dominating our news in recent weeks. There is the simple hospitality of receiving, accepting, serving and including ALL people. We offer hospitality simply by refusing to stereotype, to pre-judge or reject others in our words and attitudes. We offer hospitality be refusing to embrace any sense of being better than others. We offer hospitality by always being willing to listen, understand and welcome the stranger. We offer hospitality by being willing to stand alongside our sisters and brothers of Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups and say we will stand and fight alongside you in the quest for justice and equality for all.
When each of does this in our attitudes toward people in other countries, other religions, and other race groups, the holiness of hospitality is spread across the earth. In the end, this hospitality will offer us healing and connection to one another AND to God, and will enable us to know the life that God longs for us all to share in Christ.
And secondly, a thought about living as locally hospitable Christians. Opening our lives to ‘receive’ prophets and righteous people seems easy. We can trust them and quite possibly there is always some blessing or ‘reward’ that we will experience. Opening our lives to the ‘least’ can be a different story – there may be no benefit from showing hospitality to these. And yet if we are to recognise hospitality as holiness, then this is exactly what we are called to do.
During the pandemic, Adella, our Church Community Worker, has started a Clothing Bank, in which donated decent, clean and ironed clothes plus toys and toiletries are taken out to local asylum seeker families, who have still been arriving in Swansea, despite the situation. At the moment, whilst the church is not in use, this is being run from the Wesley Room. The challenge – and I hope it’s an exciting one, is how can we continue this going forward. What other community outreach ventures might be able to springboard off of it? I hope that in the coming weeks and months as we consider this call and challenge, we may remember this: hospitality is holiness. Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Amen
The famous painting by William Holman Hunt, called The Light of the World. The figure of Jesus is preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door. Traditionally it represents the verse Rev 3:20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’.
In our prayers today we imagine that Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts – but opening the door to Jesus – offering hospitality to Jesus – must also mean that in turn, we offer hospitality to others, in all the ways we have thought about this morning. Let us pray.
Always loving, always welcoming, always knocking-on-the-door-of-our-hearts God, we open ourselves to you this day. We invite you into our hearts and into our lives, for we want to live more closely with you.
And as we welcome you, so we pray that you will enable us to offer a similar all encompassing and loving welcome to others. We remember before you:
- Those who arrive as asylum seekers and do not find a welcome.
- Those who came to this country as children of the Windrush, and yet, because of the ‘hostile’ environment of recent governments have been through hell.
- Those, who, because of the colour of their skin, lack opportunity, justice and peace.
- Others, known and unknown, who need to know God’s loving welcome for them.
The Lord’s Prayer
In our own homes, we pray this prayer alongside sister and brother Christians around the world.
Go in the name of Jesus, to follow the way of Jesus,
to love with the love of Jesus,
and to be sustained by the peace of Jesus. Amen