Sunday May 26 – Genesis 18:1-15, Mark 8:17b-18
“Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” – Mark 8:17b-18
Monday May 27 – Matthew 5:43-48
We are reminded that God offers all of us the very best, “the sun to warm us and the rain to nourish us (Matt. 5:45 MSG).” Jesus then invites us to give the very best to others (Matt. 5:47). In this Scripture, Jesus calls us to love the unlovable. But, how often do we turn this command inward? How often do we try to love our true whole selves? Our true selves, our God-created selves, are to be “children of our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:45).” Today, pause and reflect on loving and welcoming the stranger within you; the parts of you that you deny, cover up and hide. God loves all you and you are a child of God.
- Prayer: God, my creator, help me to acknowledge and welcome the “stranger” pats within me. Help me to love myself and recognize the beauty in how you created me. Amen.
- Activity: Write an imaginary dialogue between you and stranger within. Identify an aspect of yourself you do not welcome. Let this stranger have its say and respond to with your own thoughts and feelings.
Tuesday May 28 – Deuteronomy 10:17-19
In Deuteronomy 10, God is reminding the Israelites that they were strangers in Egypt as they move from slavery and to freedom. God connects the need to love the stranger with the Israelites experiences of being the stranger. Remember the times when you were powerless, vulnerable, and lost. Being the stranger is an experience of disorientation. We may experience disorientation in our church family; with pastoral changes, worship changes, or even the large United Methodist denomination. These experiences of “lost-ness” force us to return to being the stranger. As you experience this vulnerability how can you be more available to the truth that God radically welcomes all strangers? How can you experience God’s incredibly open and wide arms?
- Prayer: God of the stranger, remind me when I feel disoriented that you are reaching out to me. As I feel disoriented God, welcome me once again into your love and grace. Amen.
- Activity: Try getting lost! Not literally, but figuratively. Try out a new Sunday School class, visit a new small group, try a different worship service. How can you be present to your own vulnerability and uncertainty and receive the fullness of God’s welcome?
Wednesday May 29 – 1 Peter 3:8-9
Debate about politics, about faith and beliefs, about church seem to be everywhere. We have the opportunity to welcome strangers who believe differently than us and recognize them as children of God. Welcoming those with different beliefs than our own is not about agreement but instead about genuine engagement. Instead, approach those you disagree with, with a “tender heart and humble mind (1 Pet. 3:8).” Instead of being concerned with who is right, be concerned about recognizing them as God’s beloved.
- Prayer: God who loves all people. It can be hard for me to love as radically as you do. Give me a tender heart and humble mind to love like you. Amen.
- Activity: Engage in conversation with someone at work, a family member or in church who you might disagree with. Instead of trying to convince them of your view or defend your perspective, invite them into conversation with these words: 1) Tell me more about how you arrived at your view about this, 2) Tell me more about how it is important in your life right now. You may not resolve your disagreement, but you may gain understanding.
Thursday May 30– Matthew 25:35-36
In Matthew 25, Jesus calls us to see himself, to see Christ in the least likely of places. We are invited to see Christ in prison or detention centers, in sickbeds, as the hungry, and the lost. This parable connects the most vulnerable persons among us with Jesus himself. If we are truly called to welcome the way that God welcomes, we must see Jesus in each person we encounter – even when we least expect to see Jesus. Where can you challenge yourself to see Jesus today? Practice witnessing Jesus in every face you see at work or at church. How does this reorient your perspective?
- Prayer: Jesus I want to see you in each person I see today. Challenge me to recognize you in the least and most vulnerable around me. Amen.
- Activity: Set aside an hour today – each person you encounter presume that Jesus is present in each person. Ask God to see Christ in each person. How does this impact your day? How did you welcome Jesus as you practiced seeing Jesus in each person you met today?
Friday May 31 – Philippians 2:4-8
When we are the host or hostess we would never serve a plate or drink empty. But, in this Scripture Jesus “emptied himself (Phil. 2:7).” Jesus who is our host, chooses to be emptied to serve God. When we are intentional about emptying our pretenses, releasing our anxieties and assumptions, we make room to receive the abundance of God’s welcome. What assumptions do you need to release today to receive a full welcome from God? How can you create empty space in your heart to receive God’s hospitality?
- Prayer: God of great abundance, I ready myself and empty myself today to be filled by your welcome. Today, I pray that you cultivate my heart to make room for your love. Amen.
- Activity: Take 15 minutes today and don’t schedule a thing! No chores, no commitments, no TV, no music; just empty space for God. How does the empty space feel? Do you encounter God in a new way?
Saturday June 1 – Isaiah 43:18-19
Welcome can happen when we experience something new. Isaiah reminds us that God takes the old and former things and makes them new (Isa. 43:18). Kingdom hospitality requires the risk of experiencing a new thing. It may even require that we enter times of wilderness and desert trusting that God will make a way to receive and welcome us (Isa. 43:19). How can you be intentional about encountering God’s welcome in something new this week? Read a different version of the Bible, listen to new music, talk to someone at church you haven’t met yet. How does God welcome in the new things for you?
- Prayer: Holy God, I invite your welcome to spring forth in my life in new ways. Help me to perceive your invitation to things that are new and surprising. Amen.
- Activity: So often we connect hospitality with food. So, try a new restaurant this week, make a new recipe, or shop at a different grocery store. What was it like trying something new or different? How did you feel welcomed? What new things can you continue to welcome in your life?