July 8, 2018
7th Sunday after Pentecost
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Before we left for Houston, at our last meeting with youth and adults, I talked about how as soon as the vans arrived at 3:30am on Monday, that we would be totally dependent upon the hospitality of others until we arrived back at Trinity the following Monday. It’s similar to the calling Jesus gives to his disciples in our gospel lesson this day.
And then Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out…take nothing with you, Jesus said, no bag, no bread, no money in your belts, wear sandals….
Discipleship, as Jesus describes it, lets the disciples and us know that when we leave this building, or the company of other believers that we are totally dependent upon the hospitality of others – in essence, the hospitality of strangers.
And then Pastor Jen called the lucky 13, and reminded them each day in Houston, that they would always travel in pairs, that they (unlike Jesus’ disciples) would take a bag with them that would contain a filled water bottle, their cell phone, snacks, any money they may want for souvenirs, sunscreen and an extra layer for those air conditioned spaces. Also, they would wear sneakers, NOT sandals!
But the message of being sent was the same, stay focused on your surroundings, be with the people of this place, see God in your midst, tell others why you are here, spread the message of love in all that you do and say.
As we entered the city each day, we were ready to be the presence of Christ, to see God in our midst and we were ready to be changed through this experience.
And through it all, we were most definitely dependent upon the hospitality of strangers.
We circled up in prayer with one of our drivers at 3:21am on the morning of June 25 and prayed for safe travels as we departed from Robesonia.
We navigated through the airport, made it through check in smoothly, and immediately found Jesus…Sweet Jesus, to be exact.
We we’re picked up in style in Houston when our driver met us at baggage claim with a pen written sign saying, Jen D. He escorted us out of the airport and onto a party bus!
Neon lights, comfy seats…and even though we were exhausted we sang along to a great play list as we journeyed to our hotel.
At this point – still day one of our trip – we had already been dependent upon multiple drivers, airport employees, flight attendants and pilots and folks working at the food stands at the airport.
After checking in at our hotel, we entered into the Houston heat and walked to Denny’s for a filling and satisfying lunch, had a rest-filled afternoon and then enjoyed tasty TexMex at Don Carlos that evening.
We were cared for by a wonderful server and skilled cooks. The chips didn’t stop coming!
While I do not have the time to walk you through every minute of our trip, you can get the sense that we needed the hospitality of those we did not know to make our trip possible.
We were dependent upon the care, hospitality and openness of others to make our travels possible.
So many times, throughout the week, I saw God in our midst in through the hospitality of strangers placed on our path through our travels in Houston.
As we navigated public transportation we were helped and assisted by transportation employees and Houstonians alike.
This helpful gentleman also gave us the heads up that Jackson Street Barbeque was the best Barbeque in the city….we made there a few days later and it did NOT disappoint!
And I have to tell you, that the day we ate at Jackson Street, they allowed us to wait out a serious thunderstorm that rolled through the city after lunch. They were fine with us, sipping water, writing postcards and waiting out the storm until we were able to head on our way for the rest of the day.
From Metro employees, to Houstonians, to cooks and servers, we were continually fed, hydrated, cared for and welcomed and that made a world of difference.
It was a true joy to see our youth appreciatively respond to the hospitality of strangers. They continued to be grateful and thankful for the care and compassion bestowed upon us as our week continued.
Discipleship is fundamentally dependent upon the other…when we leave the building we are dependent upon the hospitality of the stranger.
This continued to play out as we gathered with 31,000 Lutheran youth in NRG stadium.
I don’t know about you, but when you get this many people gathered together, dancing, singing, praying, hearing inspirational speakers and worshiping together, the Holy Spirit will be movin’!
The employees of NRG Stadium, who worked nights and a weekend for us, kept us moving in and out of the building as safely as they could and took care of us when we were in their presence.
I don’t have a bathroom picture to share – because, well, that would be weird, but one of the placed I saw God was in one of the female employees at NRG Stadium who was working her tail off to keep the women’s room tidy and ready for a sea of women. If you’ve ever been at a concert or convention, you know the lines around bathrooms. Guys, if you haven’t experienced them, you’ve at least seen the lines coming out of the ladies room as you wait for your spouse or friends.
And so here, in the midst of bathroom busyness, this staff person, moved from stall to stall, insuring it was clean and ready for the next woman who needed it. She stocked toilet paper, she stocked paper towels, she mopped up water and did it all with a joyful spirit. In one of the places you least expect to see God at work….God was there in the hospitality of that woman in that bathroom.
Sometimes we forget how dependent we are upon others, until we leave the comfort of our own homes and communities.
I would be remiss, if I didn’t share one of the highlights of our trip…which you will no doubt hear about from others when they share stories in August. But I have to tell you about Daisy’s Deli.
We found this place on Yelp, saw that it was just as close as Denny’s but it was locally owned so we wanted to check it out.
As we rounded the corner at the address in Yelp, we found ourselves at an office building. The group waited outside as I checked with the gentleman at the front desk to make sure we were at the right place.
He said, down the hall, turn left and it’s on your right. Thanks, I said and reminded the group that we were entering a place of business as we made our way down the hall to a tiny little deli.
The surprise on the owner’s face as her deli was filled with 17 people was priceless. She promptly walked us through the menu and took our orders, within 20 minutes, all our bagels, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast tacos were hot and ready. They were delicious. We enjoyed fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, too. We were well fed.
As we walked back to the hotel that morning, I asked, so breakfast tomorrow Denny’s or Daisy’s? Daisy’s! Was the resounding reply.
The next morning, Kiara called our order in, so that our crew would be expected. We were welcomed with open arms…and we ate, again, like champs.
Pil, and her co-worker Wong, were willing to be in a picture with us.
She may have even teared up a little when I asked if we could hug. She was touched by our presence and we by her hospitality. If we could have eaten there again we would have.
Several of our youth explained to the owner, Pil, why we were in Houston and how we found her place on Yelp and how we had to come back a second time.
When hospitality is extended, lives are changed.
As we leave this place - this sanctuary, this community of faith - as disciples we are sent to proclaim God’s word through word and deed, we are dependent upon the hospitality of strangers. We are called to meet them where they are, listen to their stories, and walk with them on this journey.
May you be embraced by the hospitality of others as you continue to extend God’s hospitality to others.
And may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.