Summary: A sermon about Christian hospitality.
“Would You Even be able to Recognize Yourself?”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
As many of you know, the week before last, I spent some time in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina at a continuing education retreat.
Our main speaker was Bishop Schnase from the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Schnase shared the following story with us:
“My parents were nominal Lutherans.
Which meant that we didn’t really go to church.
My father worked hard in a blue collar job at a factory and my mother worked hard keeping the kids and the home in one piece.
Eventually we moved to Texas, and my parents decided that they would go ‘shopping for a church.’
So, perhaps once a month or so we would visit a worship service, and then move on to another one the next month.
One evening, my dad and I decided to visit the evening service at the local Methodist Church.
It was only dad and I, since my mother had to stay home and watch my younger siblings for we didn’t know whether or not they had childcare.
We didn’t know much about church and I don’t remember much about the service.
What I do remember is that the next evening we had a knock on the door from some members of the church.
They welcomed us to the area, and told us how happy they were that we had visited the church.
It was obvious that they loved their church very much!
They told us about some of the important ministries that were taking place.
They told us about the Sunday school classes and the activities for children.
And then they told us that they hoped we would come back.
Their enthusiasm worked.
And for the first time, our family started going to church on a regular basis.
Soon, they started to ask us if we would like to join the church.
At first, my parents said, ‘No, not at this time,’ but they persisted, and we eventually joined.
After a while someone asked my mother if she would teach one of the Sunday school classes.
She declined right off saying ‘How could I do that? I know hardly anything about the Bible.’
That didn’t sway them, instead, they told her that she could be a ‘helper’.
And to this, she said, ‘Yes.’
She was put in charge of the arts and crafts, and helped in that Sunday school class for the next 7 years.
At one point, my parents were asked to come join the Bible study that met at the church every Wednesday night.
‘Not at this time, thanks,’ they replied.
They were invited again and again, until finally, someone asked them why they would not come.
They told them that they felt they would be surrounded by a group of people who knew the Bible backwards and forwards…
…they, themselves knew very little about the Bible, and were afraid they would be embarrassed and wouldn’t fit in!
But the person who had invited them promised them that this would not be the case.
‘That class is made up of some folks who know a lot about the Bible, some who only know a little, and some who know next to nothing.’
So they gave the Bible Study class a try…”
And Bishop Schnase shared with us that it was within this Bible study group that they came to form their strongest friendships…
…life-long friendships that continue to this day!
Of course Bishop Schnase went on to seminary, entered into the ordained ministry, became a pastor and is now a Bishop.
These days his father, who is now retired, spends three days a week at the church volunteering for “Meals on Wheels”…a ministry which takes meals to people who can either not afford the food or are “shut-in” at their homes.
His mother is active and has been so for many years in the United Methodist Women, and she now is not just a helper in a Sunday school class…she is a teacher.
The church is and has been the center of their lives.
But imagine extracting out of them all the experiences of church from their lives…
Imagine if they had never joined that church or had never gone back.
Imagine if those excited members had never visited them.
Imagine if they had never become involved in Sunday school and had never been invited to join that Bible study group.
Imagine if they had never learned what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Extract all that!
And who would they be?
Bishop Schnase says that he wouldn’t be able to recognize them!
The Church fundamentally changed their lives!!!
Can you relate?
In our Scripture Lesson for this evening, we see people bringing their children to Jesus in order for Him to “place his hands on them.”