The Stranger & The Outcast

Sheep blog

Do you want to be more like Jesus? Part of being more like Jesus means extending the same treatment, the same hospitality to the ‘alien’, the stranger and the outcast that Jesus would extend towards them. That’s a big challenge when you realise how Jesus treated them! (If you don’t know, have a rummage through the Gospel of John Chapter 9 or take a look at Luke 4:18-19)

Some of the religious leaders of the time were scandalised by Jesus and pointed to their books of rules saying ‘this is not how it should be done.’ I wonder whether we ever get so hung up on dotting every doctrinal ‘i’ and crossing every religious ’t’ that we actually miss out on becoming more like Jesus…and miss out on the whole point of what it means to be church?

When we look at people, do we see them simply as they are and have been, or do we see them with the eyes of Christ…..as those to whom Jesus offers a hope and a future?

I’ve always been interested in words, what they mean and where they come from. One of the words I looked up a while ago was “hostility.” I found out that the Latin root of that word is hostis which means “enemy.” Our Christian task is to turn the stranger (the hostis) who is perceived as an enemy into a hospes, which is the Latin word for “guest” (and from which our English word “hospitality” is derived.)

Our Christian task it to turn the hostis into a hospes….the stranger into a guest.

Biblical hospitality doesn’t just mean sharing food with someone…though food is definitely good. I like food.

Rather, Biblical hospitality involves an enounter with God as we encounter the stranger. 

I have had the privilege of meeting a very wide range of people through my work life ….whether they be homeless people, prostitutes, addicts, refugees, younger people, older people, poorer people, richer people, people with disabilities, gay people, people of other nationalities, cultures and faiths. I have grown so much through people who are not like me…..through “the other!” What’s more, I have found that I don’t necessarily have to condone their actions or beliefs in order to learn from them.

In fact, I think that the stranger can be sent by God to open up new windows in our thinking that help move us towards a greater wholeness as human beings. Maybe God wants to challenge our perceptions…perhaps he wants us to grow in grace ? Maybe He wants to lead us to prayerful intercession? Maybe it is something else?

Just a final thought….for years the church has prayed for chances to evangelise and disciple the nations. For years God’s response has been to send people overseas to do just that. Today, that prayer is being answered in a new way….

the nations are coming to us. What a massive God given Gospel opportunity!

One that should certainly affect our church prayer life!

So….how can we become a people who look for the image of God in one another; people who look for what they can affirm in one another, not what they can disagree on or tear down; people who seek to offer the stranger and outcast a hope and future because of Jesus Christ?

How can we become people who turn the hostis into the hospes…the enemy to the guest?
How can we become a people who in welcoming the stranger, find that we just might have a fresh encounter with the risen Lord Jesus? – An encounter that will help us become more like Jesus.

And we do want to become more like Jesus don’t we?

 

*Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Jibing At Sea…

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Monique is an accomplished sailor from Brittany. She set out from the Canary Islands over 2 years ago and has since been sailing around the world. She has called in at various ports along the way and during this time has, amongst other things, learned to surf, skateboard and sledge.

The world has too few well known female rôle models, so I am pleased to be able to say that I am in awe of Monique.

I am particularly in awe of her because people said that it wouldn’t work out. After all, she started her journey as an inexperienced sailor on a 39 foot yacht heading out into the vast unknown! People said that she just wasn’t cut out for that sort of journey or that sort of life. They said that she would find it far too stressful and that she would be much better off spending her life doing something ‘normal’ and more in line with her natural talents and abilities.

I know they say that you should never meet your heroes, but I would like to meet Monique…..

because Monique is a chicken…a hero chicken….

….a hero chicken who has been travelling round the world with a human called Guirée Soudée. Soudée has found, contrary to many peoples expectations, that Monique has been the ideal sailor companion for him. Whilst only eating rice and corn (plus the odd fish) she actually provides him with freshly laid eggs at sea. In addition to this, Monique provides him with company, entertainment and, says Soudée, ‘Compared with people, she doesn’t complain at all.’

Sometimes, we box ourselves in. We tell God that he can’t use us in this or that way because we are just not cut out for it. Perhaps we think that we are not experienced enough, gifted enough, eloquent enough, knowledgeable enough, old enough, young enough or whatever. Maybe we think that we are just too shy or perhaps too mouthy!

God can work in and through anyone in any way he likes!

God may assign us a task that is far beyond our power or resources to accomplish. Perhaps only then will we turn to him for the power, the knowledge, the skill and the resources that we need. Let’s stop focusing on our talents, abilities and interests to determine God’s will. Instead, why not seek God himself and just watch and wait as he equips us for whatever assignment He is wanting to accomplish in and through us.

When we tell God what we can’t do, we are actually saying more about our faith in God (or lack of it) than we are about our own abilities. Either God is all powerful or he isn’t. If He is all powerful, then we do not need to question our ability, strength or resources to complete His assignments. He will equip us to accomplish all He calls us to do.

Be like Monique…….I’m sure she never questions the call on her life or her abilities to fulfil the task.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36475672

*Tacking more than 180 degrees to avoid a jibe (usually in harsh conditions) is sometimes referred to as a ‘chicken jibe.’

Part 2- Scribbles from my journal way back when…

Photo on 07-06-2016 at 14.37

In my last blog, I explained that I would be posting some thoughts from some old journals that predated my training as a Baptist minister. The journals were written at a time when God was turning my understanding of what faith was, what ministry could be and who I was upside down. They are nothing particularly clever or even original, but just thoughts that seemed worth thinking at the time, that challenge me afresh every time I read them and that might be helpful pondering fuel for someone else.

So, here is the second set of musings, this time from my old red journal. And yes, I am currently imbibing another lovely cup of coffee!

  • ‘A missionary model of church calls us to move from understanding church as institution to movement, from structures that invite people into sacred space to a contagious spirituality that ‘invades secular space.’

How can we cultivate such a contagious spirituality? What will that mean for us in terms of our discipleship, holiness and ethics? Why do we so often separate disciplehip/holiness and mission…and at what cost?

  • How might church leaders (and how might I) develop a deeper understanding of society so that we can better develop skills that will enable us to develop a genuinely missional engagement with society?’