Grace, mercy and peace to you. Our family continues to be grateful for your prayers on our behalf. I am happy to report that our closing date has passed and our home in St. Louis is now officially sold! We are very glad for God’s faithfulness in caring for and protecting us financially in this matter. Many of you continue to kindly ask us how our transition is going. I’m thankful to be able to say that overall, our family is settling in to our new lives here in Colleyville. Cael (3rd) and Gillian (2nd) both seem to be thriving in their classes at Covenant Christian Academy, making friends and responding well to the new social and academic environment. One thing about our new state our family is finding special delight in is the beautiful weather we’ve had this fall! I know that many of you are used to the temperatures here, but we’ve had a great deal of pleasure in day after day of sunny weather, and (thus far!) the lack of cold. In St. Louis, the temperatures are already dipping below freezing! Enough said. It’s also been amazing for us to have a multi-acre backyard to explore (with a playground). Cael and I play catch most nights after dinner on the church property (though the time change will make that more difficult), and all the kids love running around together and making up their own stories and games. We’re so grateful to all of you who have welcomed us into your homes and lives this fall and look forward to continuing to deepen our new friendships with all of you. God has been very good to us thus far this fall.
This month, instead of addressing the next point in my philosophy of ministry document, I want to talk briefly about some of the new realities in the life of our congregation—the most prominent of which is the new parts of our body that are being added to us! We’ve already had several new families formally join us in membership this fall, and I anticipate that we will likely have more in weeks and months to come. In addition, there are often many new faces on Sunday mornings, some of whom are visiting our church for the first time. I’m so grateful for God’s provision in sending us these new saints. But I also know that growth and change is a challenge for all of us (just as it is for any group of people), whether one has been a part of Colleyville Presbyterian Church for a few months or a few decades.
My constant prayer is that each of us who inhabit this community we’re shaping together, new and old, would count one another in humility more significant than ourselves and be disciplined in looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of one another. Right now, because of the time and place in which God has put us, that means that we have a special need for the gift of hospitality in our congregation. And in order to exercise that gift, all of us, new members and long-time members, need to take the risk of extending welcome to those who are strange to us and even embrace discomfort for the sake of each other. When is the last time you welcomed another person or family in the congregation that you didn’t know well into your home to share a meal together? After worship, do you look for new faces to greet and to whom you can pass the peace of Christ, or are you content to simply speak with those whom you are already familiar? Are you willing to occasionally give up your freedom to worship as you normally do in order to care for some of the new children the Lord has brought us in our nursery?
Don’t misunderstand me—I know that hospitality is a strength of our body. But I also know that our God delights to push us beyond what we are comfortable with, even in our strengths, so that we might grow, not only as individuals, but also as a corporate body up to maturity; even to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Like prayer or scripture reading, hospitality is a discipline that requires intention, repetition and sacrifice, but it also blossoms over time into a great reward. Also, like prayer and scripture reading, the practiced discipline of hospitality doesn’t require fancy meals or perfectly clean houses—sometimes it’s best when done simply and without fanfare.
So, as we approach the season of Advent, Christmas, and the new year, my prayer is that each of us will be open to sharing our time, our personalities, and all the gifts and resources that God has entrusted us with so that we might know new friendships, new people in our home, new faces in “our” row, and new experiences of God’s grace as we step out in faith toward one another. And as we move toward a time of celebrating the gift of Jesus’ incarnation, let us remember that when we practice hospitality we do so in imitation of him—as those whom he loves with a love that was not content with the status quo, but embraced discomfort, difficulty and sacrifice in order that we who were once strangers might be known by him and even be called his friends.
Let’s follow Jesus together.