6/26/05, P6A

Welcoming the Stranger
Matthew 10: 40-42

urger King has the right idea. They have printed a customer's Bill of Rights right on the paper placemat on the tray under the food. I would call it “Customer Friendly.” It says:

“You have the right to have things your way. You have the right to hold the pickles and hold the lettuce. You have the right to mix Coke and Sprite. You have the right to a Whopper sandwich with extra tomato, extra onion and triple cheese. You have the right to that big meal sleepy feeling when you are finished… You have a right to put a paper crown on your head and pretend you're the ruler of __________... You have the right to laugh until the soda explodes from your nose… You have a right to crumble this Bill of Rights into a ball and shoot hoops with it.”

What does this say to those of us in churches that are attempting to be visitor friendly?

What can we learn from Burger King about Jesus' words concerning our basic Christian obligation to “Welcome the Stranger?”

If we are encouraged by our Lord to extend a hearty welcome to strangers, first time visitors, or persons who are making a first effort to explore Christianity through a quick visit, how can we do anything less than allow His Holy Spirit to instill into our hearts a graciousness to the neighbor who has decided to check out our church?

Jesus' plan is for us to being new people into our church. Our responsibility is to preach/teach the Gospel as clearly as possible and to meet the needs of those who are making a profession of faith for the first time. In today's lection we hear Jesus say: “Anyone who welcomes you is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

(v. 40, NLT)

There can be little Brotherhood/Sisterhood of Humanity if we as believers miss the opportunity to be friendly and work toward creating an open atmosphere in our worship, programs, Sunday School and all other aspects of our church and personal lives.

Jesus' Royal Law of Love is to “Love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” (Mk. 12: 31)

“For I was hungry and you gave me meat: I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in.” (Mt. 25: 35)

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13: 12)

The Holy Family was welcomed into sparse accommodations by a gracious Innkeeper and Jesus was born in a lowly stable. Throughout his life Jesus was always gracious and kind to all people. He broke down racial barriers between Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans. He commissioned his church to go unto all people, even into the far corners, to reach everyone with the Gospel of Salvation through His Sacrifice on the Cross. Indeed, in Him all people are one.

One of the highlights of our North Georgia United Methodist Annual Conference was the testimony of a young Korean born minister of our conference; Rev. Millie Kim, who shared how God had called her a year ago to become a missionary to Mongolia , or as it used to be called, “ Outer Mongolia .” Some of us had met her at the funeral of George Ward's mother when she was Pastor at Lithia Springs. Everyone seemed to love Millie and her gracious personality. She has had the same reception in this cold and far away nation where our United Methodist Board of Ministry has wanted to establish an initial church. Friends had warned her that, “There is nothing in Mongolia ,” and she found very little in a material way; however, after her first year she showed video of darling children singing “Yes, Jesus Loves Me.” She has gone to such a far away place because she wanted to show, and proclaim that Jesus loves all of the people of the world and that He invites all of us to respond to the message of salvation.

And we can do the same in Carrollton ! Indeed, there are some unchurched people who would come and hear the Good News if we would invite them with a friendly smile. Millie's situation makes ours look easy. Remember your many F.R.A.N.s who will come if you will invite them. Our best tool in evangelism is your smiling face and gracious invitation. This friendly invitation to our friend, relatives, associates and neighbors has been the reason our church has begun to grow more rapidly.

All we have to do is provide positive visitor friendly worship and programming that will draw them into our den. Our building must appear to be inviting from the outside. Most potential visitors will drive around the property before they try that first time visit. Be sure to tell them that on Sundays we have the entire downtown in which to park. Meet them at the appointed door, because our hallways can be a maze to firs timers. Take them to your class, or to one of our inviting worship spaces. You might need to whisper answers to their questions during worship. Remember, few non Methodist visitors will know our hymns, and styles of worship. We try to keep it simple, but it can be a barrier to some visitors. And remember that bringing someone here for worship is not too much harder than taking them to a new restaurant or mall.

And remember this: if Burger King can pull this off, so can we.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
6/26/05, P6A