August 2013

Rain pelted down refusing to relent. The British summer was set to soak another outdoor event. My girls were playing in the jazz orchestra and we had bought tickets, however, ………. rainy hour poured into rainy hour and the only message trickling from the organisers was “the event is still on.” We looked at the rain, and were not convinced.

Around 5pm the rain lessened and good old British resilience, optimism, stubbornness, madness (you choose) prompted the organisers to declare “Jazz on the lawn is definitely on!”

Musicians sheltered instruments under a dripping marquee and every patch of lawn resisting bog-dom was claimed as gazebo encampments for guests to huddle. All were longing for the evening concert to start and to finish.

However, as the evening settled in, the wet weather loosened its grip. Gazebo conversations wandered from the British weather to what we usually did on weekends, our kids, what we did during the week – picnics were unpacked, food shared, the band played, the skies cleared and we experienced an enjoyable evening together.

Flip forward a year and ‘Jazz on the lawn’ concert was here again. This day awoke to glorious sunshine - shorts, sandals and suntan lotion this time! As day melted into evening, hundreds of guests flocked expectantly toward the concert venue. However, instead of gravitating toward communal gazebos, people sought out and claimed individual territories in the name of their picnic! The band played, the skies remained clear and 300+ people shared an enjoyable evening together. But it was a different ‘together’ to the year before.

In 1 Peter 4:9 we read, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” [‘Hospitality’ in Greek is ‘philoxenia’ - ‘love – strangers/others’] On both occasions the owners of the lawn who allowed hundreds of strangers to picnic behind their home showed hospitality [yes it was a large lawn!]. But ‘hospitality’ is more than this.

As we soaked up the sun and jazz that evening, many of the folk we shared a gazebo with the previous year came over and chatted. We were no longer simply familiar strangers who waved and smiled when we saw each other - something had changed.

By stepping into each other’s world (gazebo): sharing food, conversation, life together – hospitality - something changed. We were not all instant best buddies, they were not suddenly asking “What must I do to be saved?” - but I knew a little more about their story and they about my story, conversation naturally flowed. Hospitality does that.

This autumn, can I encourage the church family to intentionally “offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” – and let’s be open to what God may want to do.

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