Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on November 18, 2017
Our house is decorated for Thanksgiving! My wife Michele will happily cook most of the food and I will most happily watch, taste, smell and admire. I am sure I will volunteer before I need to be recruited to chop, dice, mash and clean. With the Holiday season here, I, like most of you are thinking about "Hospitality" and "Thankfulness."
I am a Christian in name and faith and "Hospitality" to others, and "Thankfulness" to God, mixed with some periodic fist shaking to the heavens is part of our tradition and many others.
This got me thinking. I remembered President Jimmy Carter's pastor made the news some years ago. His sermon was titled, "If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence against you to be convicted?"
Had I done anything in the past week where I could have possibly been put in jeopardy of being accused of being a "hospitable" or "thankful" Christian? I had dinner by myself at Ukiah Brewing Company. I was polite, but I don't think I could have been singled out as a "Hospitable" or "Thankful" person of faith.
Whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or spiritual not religious; could any of us be identified, in a good way, as being a conscientious person of faith?
I am reminded of a book in the Bible called Acts. It is in the New Testament. The apostle Paul demonstrates his faith by sitting down with a local business-woman named Lydia. This exchange illuminates the importance of "hospitality" and "thankfulness." How do we live out our faith each day?
The setting between the two is informal. A traveler's riverside rest stop outside the city limits. Something unique is happening here. This moment marks the beginning of Paul's ministry in Europe. Lydia is the first person to open her heart to Paul's message. Lydia becomes Europe's first Christian, and her home becomes the first church.
Paul's journey to Europe doesn't start our as a post college backpack trip. I am sure many of you, your children, or grandchildren know this experience. Paul's journey is something entirely different. It isn't prompted by curiosity, boredom, culture, a right of passage, adventure; which are all fine reasons. No his journey to Europe is prompted by something far greater, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit closes some doors on his life, and kindly opens a few others.
The closing and opening of doors thus begins Paul's profound transition into a life of sharing Christ's message of love, compassion and forgiveness. Instead of shaking his fist, or blaming God for closing doors in his life...he walks through the doors that are opened for him. All of us can learn something here. When doors close in his life and God opens another, he walks through! Imagine that?
Are any doors in your life closing? Are some other doors opening? Are you opening your life to listening where the Spirit is leading you?
I think it is safe to say that all, or at least most of us, are in some form of life transition. Issues, accomplishments, crisis can seem so permanent and lasting, fortunately in some cases, or sadly in others, many are not.
Some may move from single to married, or married to single. No children to parenthood. Wellness to sickness and sickness to wellness, unemployment to employment, married to widowed, or home to apartment.
A life transition can feel like a ship being pulled from its mooring. Transitions make us ask, where am I going now? Who is waiting for me on the other side? Will anybody be there to greet me? Will I be alone?
To demonstrate our desire for holy transitions in life, something wonderful is revealed in Acts. Having an open heart to God depends on our willingness to have an open mind. An open heart and mind is a prerequisite to hearing the Spirit.
If a transition is happening in your life, how is your heart and mind open to the Spirit?
Europe's first church didn't start by committee. It began with one person opening his faith life to a total stranger. And she listened. Open heart and an open mind can change your life.
When our hearts and minds are open to one another and to God, the doors of division and strife can close, and new doors of grace and purpose can open.
I invite each of you to a life of graceful hospitality and thankfulness this holiday season.
Open heart and open mind. Great things can happen in our life and world when two people sit down and share and listen.
I hope this is true for you, and also for me.
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah
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