Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:8-9
Love, exciting and new
Come aboard, we’re expecting you
Love, life’s sweetest reward
Let it flow, it floats back to you
– Paul Williams, Theme from The Love Boat
Hospitality will be my constant refrain this Fall; and in all likelihood, longer than that. One of the cardinal virtues in ancient cultures was hospitality; how one cared for the needs of strangers and guests was not part of being “nice.” Travel was dangerous and difficult and would have been impossible for even the most wealthy. Without the goodwill and kindness of strangers a long journey would be impossible. You could never care for your needs of food, water and shelter on your own while on a long trip, even if you had money. To attend to the needs of others “without grumbling” had to be important to everyone.
In the life of First United Church of Christ, hospitality must be on the top of our minds too. Cruise ships are among the most intentionally hospitable places on the planet. We can learn much from the cruise industry. The theme song from The Love Boat gives us a clue to the most important point in making people feel welcome. “Come aboard, we’re expecting you” is not a hollow lyric. Expecting guests to come, and being ready for them makes a huge impression. Every guest on a cruise ship is expected to come to the experience with no knowledge of where things are, or how things work. A focus on hospitality creates a culture of welcoming. If hospitality is not at the top of our priorities, we will struggle.
I know what you’re thinking. First Church is such a friendly church! Everyone tells us that we’re good at being friendly to newcomers. I agree with you, my family’s experience of First UCC has been incredibly warm and welcoming. Friendliness is the beginning of hospitality. Over the next few months I’ll be talking to you about the next steps in hospitality. There will be parts of developing our welcoming that will inspire some grumbling. I have faith in you: that your love for God, the church, one another, and me, will “make up for practically anything” that might create some discomfort.
Welcoming God, help us to make your house a place where love overflows. Open our hearts and minds to make opportunities for ministry for our neighbors. Amen.