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Posted: March 14, 2013 8:21 p.m.

Radical hospitality

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’”
Matthew 25:34-36
(Common English Bible)

I miss the days of sitting on the front porch and talking to the people who walked by on their way to and from town. What stories we would share! Sometimes, we would sit on the front porch and sometimes, for a change of scenery, we would head down to “Mrs. Sudie’s” general store and sit in her rocking chairs, drinking a Coke and listening to the latest news. And you can bet then, when anyone new came to town, we welcomed them with open arms. We would take over cookies and pies and all kinds of desserts. We would call on them to make sure they knew where everything was: the market, where the best place to buy this or that. And we would want to hear what was going on in other parts of the world: where they came from, what the news was and we often started conversations with “How’s your momma ‘nem?” Yes siree! We practiced what people would consider today “Radical Hospitality” — but we just called it being neighborly.


Welcoming strangers has long been a part of the Christian and Judeo traditions. In Genesis, we are told Abraham welcomed strangers who told him the fantastic news that he would experience the miracle of having a son even in old age. Lot welcomed strangers who saved his life. Jesus welcomed strangers, leading us by example to do the same thing. And Paul and the missionaries were welcomed and encouraged the churches to welcome others. So, radical hospitality has long been a part of our faith tradition.


But just what does radical hospitality involve? I think the story in Matthew 25 gives us some clues. In this parable, Jesus is talking about the king coming to judge those who have been left as stewards of the kingdom. He tells those listening that sheep will be known from goats in this way — those who practice radical hospitality in the manner Jesus offered it will be sheep, so that offering someone a drink who is thirsty becomes an act of compassion and radical hospitality when done from the heart and with true concern for the person and for his spiritual well-being. Visiting someone in prison becomes an act of radical hospitality when done with compassion and the love of Christ.


Giving clothes to someone who needs them or food to someone who is hungry becomes an act of radical hospitality when we care about the people we are helping.


When I think of radical hospitality, it helps me remember those in my own life who have been examples of Christ’s hospitality to others. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of a dear friend, Shelley Goodroe, who was a beautiful example of Christ’s love and hospitality to others. Shelley was a leader with a servant’s heart — a person who did for others because it made her heart happy. She welcomed others with open arms and an open heart. If someone was in need, Shelley was the person most likely to make sure something was done to help that person — whether it was doing whatever was needed or enlisting others to help out.


Shelley was an organizer and a person you could count on to be the smiling face, helping hands and open arms of Christ to whomever came into her life. She was a vital part of the faith community and we will miss her presence, but we all have something to do. We need to continue where Shelley left off — being the open and welcoming arms of Jesus to all those who come into our lives.


How will you show radical hospitality to others today by serving them as Christ would?

Rev. Jan McCoy is the associate pastor of Covington First United Methodist Church in downtown Covington. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net or at covingtonfirst.org.

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