January 11, 2015
So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him." Acts 10:34-35
Today I'd like to tell you about a country church, which was having an old-fashioned mission festival.
It was -- in the life of the congregation -- a big deal. For a year, men and women of the parish planned, worked, cooked and cleaned to make a good impression on the expected influx of visitors. When the week came, everything went according to plan. Even the weather seemed to cooperate.
Everything was perfect, except for one fellow who hung around on the outskirts of the festivities.
His clothing was torn and tattered, his appearance, grimy and grubby. His face sported a week's worth of stubble. No, this was not the fashionable, unshaved look of the men's clothing catalogs, this guy was just grungy.
Now, I wouldn't have you think, not for a moment, that the fellow, who was not "one of them," was in the least bit intrusive. He wasn't. He didn't panhandle. He didn't look longingly when the plates of food were handed out. He didn't bother the children or the women. He was just there. Of course, most of the time the outsider was forgotten.
Finally, the last day came. People sang with a greater gusto than anyone could remember; the choir was dynamic in its praises. Then from the back of the gathering came the fellow who was not one of them. Wives whispered to their husbands, "Somebody ought to stop him." Husbands nodded, but nobody moved. The fellow reached the front of the congregation, stepped into the pulpit, and spoke. The man, who was not one of them, quoted Peter: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him."
The man continued, "This week, I was physically among you, but I was never, as so many of you have been saying, 'one of you.' Nobody included me or invited me to the activities. No one shared a meal." Then he added, "Most of you averted your eyes and made me invisible." After that the man preached a wonderful sermon about how the Lord Jesus came to seek and save sinners -- all sinners.
This is just this devotion's way of saying, "Be nice to each other ... all the others."
When I was The Lutheran Hour Speaker, I visited all types of congregations: established ones, mission ones, big ones, little ones, rural and city ones. After a while I discovered why some churches seemed warm and others not.
Churches that were warm, and growing, made a person feel like he was a long-lost relative who had returned home. This means, this Sunday when you are encouraged to say, "Hello" to those around you, don't just turn to your spouse and children. Be brave and make everyone feel like he's home.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, even as You have loved and welcomed me into your family of faith, may I do the same for others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries