6/27/99, P5A

“The Welcome Mat is Out”
Matthew 10: 40-42

 core doctrine of our Judeo-Christian faith is graciousness, hospitality; or as the Bible calls it, “entertaining strangers.” (Heb. 13:2). Jesus set the pattern: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (v.40, NRSV).

I like the popular phrase: “Random Act of Kindness;” or RACs. The idea is to go through the day performing RACs: This is done for no reason, other than to fulfill Jesus’ admonition. Or for some of us; to atone for our former RAJs, Random Acts of Jerk-ness.

These RACs need not be major things: a smile, a kind word. A young mother with her yellow Honda loaded down with kids stopped at a toll booth and said, “I am praying for the people in the next five cars in line and here are tokens for their fare.” The next five cars received the explanation that some nice lady up ahead paid their fare. A teenager in Atlanta was observed scrubbing graffiti off a park bench. A homebound lady writes five notes per day to friends, acquaintances, and sometimes to strangers. Another fellow overheard a stressful cell phone conversation in a crowded automobile repair shop waiting room and when the problem was resolved (I) simply said, “My, I am sure happy for you that worked out!”

Its no big deal, but sometimes little things mean a lot. Down south we call it “Southern Hospitality.” Or, up north and out west its called: graciousness, geniality, cordiality, amiability, affability. Our family ran
into Random Acts of Kindness, whether they had heard the new phrase or not, in most of the great 48, Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Palestine.

Looking further, our motivation as followers of Jesus is a little bit different: we exhibit kindness because we are doing so as disciples, and we are performing the act of graciousness in His name. In so doing, we find
fulfillment in becoming His hands and voices. Gradually His nature becomes our way of life and ministry.

Likewise, we too have been recipients of the kindness of disciples. I think of the many who have been so helpful to me. Whenever I have the opportunity to be kind I feel that I am returning cordiality in their names.
Zach Farr noticed that I was having trouble buttoning my collar button, so he brought me a little elastic, springy extender. I wore it to his funeral recently, which was attended by hundreds of people who had been recipients of his affability.

When I applied for admission to seminary I must have checked a box that I was interested in a student pastoral appointment. Not too long after, Bob Taylor phoned and said, “I am Superintendent of the LaGrange District and I have a church for you.” My response was, “But you do not know me.” Dr. Taylor said, “If you are good enough for Emory you are good enough for this little circuit.” Two weeks ago at Annual Conference, I reminded him of how gracious he was to meet Marilyn and me down there on a Saturday morning and
show us around the three churches.

Nearly all of our Bishops have been gracious, even in presiding through Robert’s Rules of Order during emotional debate on the floor of Annual Conference. I can still hear Bishops Fitzgerald, McDavid, Cannon, and Knox say, “Yes, I hear that call for the question which would end debate, but these folks over hear had their hands up and we all want to hear them. None were self-willed, none wanted to be in control merely for control’s sake.

So, the question is, How can we begin to imitate the graciousness of other disciples who have touched our lives in Jesus’ name? How can we reflect the graciousness of Christ to others? Can we become the “...righteous person who will receive the reward of the righteous person.?” (v. 41). It takes time, it takes practice, and most of all, it takes a strong dose of His Grace: His power at work within our little lives, extending grace to everybody.

And also, along life’s way we have the opportunity to become a friend, and in doing so find the reward of making a new soulmate. Folks are not looking for friendliness as much as they are looking for friends: Not
superficial relationships, but real lasting fraternity, comradeship. This is the next level beyond the Random Act of Kindness.

Friends are more preciousness than money. Pierce Harris used to say that he did not need money as long as he has friends with plenty of money. R.D. (Red Devil) Cole and I were best buddies in middle school. It didn’t
matter which one of us bought the ice cream because we didn’t keep an accounting. I still have friends who keep no record of dues.

My best friends, and the only ones I can truly count on, are church friends; or, friends bound by the mutual love for Christ. Fraternity among disciples of Christ is what these words of Jesus are grappling with. Friends
share a history and a heritage. We agree on things that involve integrity and morality. We hold to a common hope. We together hold high the Cross. We share a sense of servanthood, and we are bound together in mutual kindness toward others. Our goal is to establish more clusters of friends all working toward the goal of building up His Kingdom.

And the church is where this can best happen. Our slogan here is, “And The Folks Are Friendly!” And we could go on to say, “And The Folks Make Great Friends!” I see deep friendships among you. Amid your larger classes I see small groups who are best friends. Many of you could tell the story of how you two, and later four, and six, first met at church. Cal Jones tells the story of walking over here when he was a freshman at Georgia Tech, and he has never walked away. Here he met the Grace of Christ. Later, his girlfriend, Grace, walked in here with him. And he has opened his heart to me. He was in the hospital when we first met, and when I was leaving he asked to give me a hug. A Random Act of Kindness taken to the tenth power.

Is your Welcome Mat out? Are you open to new friends? Are you going out from this place to practice graciousness... To give the cup of kindness to someone as His disciple?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/27/99, P5A