“For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in.” Matthew 25:35 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Well, I saw on the news that there’s another Harry Potter movie at the theater. That means everyone in our house will eventually watch it. Everyone, that is, except for me.
Now don’t get me wrong. I personally have nothing against the Harry Potter books and movies. It’s just that I never got around to reading the first book or watching the first movie. I’ve met some fine Christian folks who object to the subject matter of the series (since it involves magic) and I respect their opinions. But that’s not me. Learning about Harry Potter is just one of the things in life that I never did. Just add it to the long list of things I never got around to doing. I never finished reading Anna Karenina. I never learned to play the violin or figured out how to dance the Macarena. I never studied to become an electrician or tried out for the Ukrainian soccer team. Hey, life is short. There just isn’t time to do everything.
Several years ago, we were at my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas dinner. Her house was filled with people, and late in the afternoon everyone decided we should all go to the cinema to watch the newest Harry Potter movie. I quietly voiced my concerns to Susan that I really wasn’t all that interested in seeing it. After all, I hadn’t seen any of the previous movies in the series. Susan said I should just be a good sport and go along, since everyone else was excited about seeing it. So I did.
I must admit I’ve never been more confused in my life. The film was full of characters I didn’t know and situations I didn’t understand. The people around me chattered excitedly in a language I didn’t comprehend. (“Look, Mr. Hogwart just canceled out the spell by reciting the incantation of Garglemint”– or something like that.) After a few minutes I dropped off into a sound sleep. I was awakened when my son Seth smacked me on the forehead and told me I was snoring. I returned to consciousness and to the movie I had no clue about.
Sooner or later, we all get into a situation that’s outside of our field of knowledge and our personal comfort zone. Nowhere else is that more evident than when a person is visiting a new church. Not too long ago, I got a phone call from a man in my congregation who was seeking a favor. Due to his work schedule, he would not be able to attend church the following Sunday. But, on that particular Lord’s Day, a friend of his who had never attended our church wanted to come worship with us. My friend said, “Would you and Susan be on the lookout and go outside and greet my friend when he arrives? Would you lead him into church and sit with him? Will you show him to his Sunday school class and give him a book? That way he won’t feel so nervous when he ‘walks into the church naked.’ Of course he won’t really be naked. But that’s how it feels when you walk into a strange church and everyone stares at you.”
Isn’t that an apt description? I’ve felt that way many, many times at the beginning of a new endeavor. As you can imagine, we met the visitor at the door — and we’re thrilled that he’s been worshipping with our congregation ever since. In today’s Scripture lesson (at the top), Jesus says that when we welcome a stranger, we are welcoming Him.
This week, let’s strive to notice those who feel awkward and out-of-place. Let’s give them a welcome that shows them they “belong.” In giving comfort to the uncomfortable, we spread sunshine and show honor to our God and Saviour.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 20) and Seth (age 17) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher has seen all 6 movies in the “Star Wars” series.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.