Focal Passage: 1 Cor. 14:20-33
As a pastor who has moved several times, I know how good hospitality to a newcomer feels; but it is probably true that first-time guests in some churches do not always feel welcome.
Every human being has the same basic needs to feel affirmed and valued and welcomed into the lives of others.
Gladys, more than anybody else, helped me see this.
Upon moving to Baltimore, my wife and I bought a lovely house with a needy yard. I was certain that no landscaping business wanted to provide "just a little help." With my well-rehearsed speech, I called a local landscaping business anyway.
"Hello, this is Gladys," said the receptionist.
I explained my need to Gladys. "I've tried to improve my yard," I said, "but I have only made matters worse. I need some help, but I'm not ready to sign a contract, and I don't want to be pressured."
"Darling," she said, "what is your name?" I told her.
"Well, Sugar Pie," she continued, "ain't nobody here gonna take advantage of you. If they do, old Gladys is gonna do some neck wringing." I knew immediately that I was talking to a friend. I felt a warm welcome into her life and her business.
"Now, Sweetie, you don't have a problem," she said. "You have a friend. Baby doll, you let me send Tim over to take a peek, and if he don't treat you right, I'll come myself."
Tim came and did a good job. I paid more than I had expected to pay, but it didn't seem to matter because, though I had only known her for 10 minutes, Gladys and I were dear friends. Soon enough, I realized that it wasn't Tim I really needed. It was Gladys, so I called her again.
"Lord have mercy!" she wailed as I told her who I was. "Did Tim treat you unkindly, darling?"
"No," I assured her. "I just thought I might get Tim to help me with a second project."
"Well, Baby Doll, you tell me what you got in mind, and Gladys will work a magic spell." Her "spell" wasn't another contract. It was gracious hospitality.
Every church needs a Gladys to affirm newcomers and to reassure them that they are important. Hospitality to newcomers must be sincere, but more than that, it must be warm and personal, and it must affirm the value and worth of visitors who are really guests, of our Lord.