Undeserved Hospitality, A Reflection

Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Have you ever held a door open for someone, whether it was at church, at the grocery store or anywhere out in the community? What about giving someone a smile that you didn’t know, giving up your seat, paying for groceries or a meal for a stranger? Daily we should be ready to show hospitality to anyone we come across. In Hebrews 13:2 it specifically tells us not to neglect to show hospitality to strangers because we could be entertaining angels.
In places of worship, greeters are placed at the main entrance to greet visitors and members of the services. They show hospitality by peacefully smiling and saying hello to those who enter in the building. Ushers lend a hand to those who need assistance coming in and for those who need to find a seat. Both positions in church are the eyes, hands and feet of Jesus. When he first met his chosen disciples, Jesus first greeted them. With perfect peace, he asked them to follow him. Then Jesus taught them in the way that they should live and how to treat others. Everything that Jesus instructed them to do was all in love. Being hospitable is also done in love. When Jesus laid his life down for us, he did the greatest, loving, hospitable thing for us even though we didn’t deserve it.
Contributed by Joe Starling, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services


Come Unto Me, A Reflection

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matt 11:28
What a wonderful spirit of hospitality Jesus offers to each of us. Jesus’s words let each of us realize how important it is to have a place that presents us with an opportunity to feel welcomed, loved, safe, peaceful and at rest from the cares of everyday life.
This is exactly how I feel when I spend time with the people that I support at Heritage Christian Services. There are lots of “Hello,” and “Glad to see you.” Hugs, hand shakes and offers of a seat also abound. Everyone extends hospitality to me: “Come join us.” “Are you staying for lunch?” “When can you come to dinner?” “When can we go out together?” “What’s new with you?” “Let me tell you about my day.” “Will you pray for me?” “May I pray for you?”
Yes, hospitality is truly a part of the environment here at HCS and I am so grateful to be a recipient of it on a daily basis.
Contributed by Gilda Goings Spiritual Life Coordinator

A Story about Neighborly Hospitality

Two days of constant snowfall and freezing temperature made for a frigid wintery weekend. The neighbor was overwhelmed of the snowfall. As he continued to shovel his way out, his neighbor, Joshua, walked over to assist him. With much surprise, the neighbor looked up and said, “Thank you for helping me.”  Joshua replied, “I don’t mind, we’ve met before, but I don’t remember your name.”  The neighbor introduced himself as Bill. “ I’m Joshua, but everybody calls me Josh” Joshua said.

They continued to shovel and talk about the weather until they were finished. “Whew! That was a lot of snow we shoveled!” Bill said with an exhausted look on his face as he propped  his shovel in a mound of snow.  “It was a great workout while there’s sunlight!” replied Joshua. “Thank you again, but really, why did you choose to help me with shoveling my driveway and not finish the rest of your driveway?” Bill was still puzzled and wanted an explanation from Joshua. The only contact that they’ve had was a simple hand gesture by waving to each other while getting their mail out of the mailbox. Joshua replied with a smile, while shaking the snow off of his snow pants and boots, “It’s the neighborly thing to do sir. I really didn’t mind at all. Besides, my family and I will get outside in the morning and take care of our driveway since the little ones want to play in the snow and make snowmen tomorrow.”

As Joshua walked into his home, he remembered that he wanted to practice a scripture he read that morning. It was from 1 Peter 4:9-10 that says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  Quietly he thanked God for the courage and opportunity to open up his heart to show hospitality towards his neighbor Bill.

Contributed by Joe Starling, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.

Hospitable to Strangers

Hebrews 13:2 “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.” NLT
Reading is one of the joys of life for a man who attends a day program at an agency that supports people with developmental disabilities. He expresses his joy of reading and love for books by reading stories to children at a nearby child care center. As I asked about his experiences he shared with me that he started reading to school children several years ago. He said that he has always been welcomed with open arms and has felt his efforts have been greatly appreciated. He doesn’t do this for the applause or the pats on the back he may receive. He does it for the smiles on the children’s faces. He does it with a servant’s heart and certainly enjoys being welcomed into their world. He does it in such a wonderful way that he is missed on the rare occasions he is unable to make it. Many parts of his story touched my heart but his comment on how welcomed he feels upon arriving was particularly inspiring. The excitement of the children as they greet his arrival, how each pair of eyes and ears are focused on the story being read encourages him. The enthusiasm of the children and staff as they welcome him as their guest motivates his heart. How my friend feels when soaking this all in is called hospitality.

Encarta dictionary defines hospitality as, ‘kindness to visitors; being friendly and welcoming; generous treatment offered to guests or strangers.’ This describes exactly what my friend feels each time he visits. That should describe how we respond when we come into contact with people in need whether they be guests or strangers. If done properly, with the right heart attitude you will provide for another’s need and you will certainly be blessed. Don’t do it for the applause or the pats on the back you might receive. Do it as unto the Lord, with joy in your hearts. Who knows, you may find that you have entertained an angel or at least turned a stranger into a friend.

Contributed by Larry Havlen, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.

When God’s Children are in Need: Hospitality

When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night. Romans 12:13 NLT

Over the last few decades our culture has become increasingly isolationistic. Many people are uncomfortable saying hello to strangers; few people establish and maintain eye contact with others; eyes and minds are buried in smart phones and other mobile screens and most are not acquainted with their own neighbors. If you would like to be an agent of change in this area don’t lament the fact that it may be true for you and wallow in guilt. Trust God and choose to act upon this wonderful passage that reminds us to step outside our comfort zones and overcome cultural influence to actually meet the real needs of people we meet. We are encouraged to be on the lookout for those who have need of physical sustenance in the form of food or shelter. They could be fellow believers, neighbors or strangers that God has brought into our lives for no other apparent reason.

As Christ followers we are called to reflect His love in the world. The act of hospitality is a tangible way for us to mirror that love. In His earthly ministry Jesus showed His love for others by often meeting their needs when those needs were presented to Him. He gave sight to the blind, gave the ability to walk to the lame, healed the sick and fed the five thousand, just to name a few. But our ultimate need, to be reconciled to God, was met by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The need for that sacrifice was determined before the foundation of the world. He willingly gave His life to meet our need for a Savior. This gives us the opportunity, if we believe upon His name, to have a right relationship to our Creator.

So yes, for us to be hospitable some sacrifice of time and resources will be required as we reflect the love of Christ by meeting physical needs for food or shelter. Such a small price to pay compared to the joy one will receive when one helps a fellow human being in need. Develop the habit of ministering to other people and you will be blessed beyond measure.

Contributed by Larry Havlen, Spiritual Life Coordinator, Heritage Christian Services

Lent Then and Now

I grew up in a faith tradition that observed the season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday our family went to mass and received ashes smudged onto our foreheads, on Fridays we had macaroni and cheese, we were expected to make extra visits to the confessional and, as we got older, we were asked to give something up for Jesus because he gave up his life for us. I liked Lent. It gave me something to do and I believed I needed to do something for him to get his attention so he could see what a good little girl I was. I gave up reading time for more prayer time. I gave up my favorite foods to experience sacrifice. I wore something blue everyday of Lent because I had heard somewhere that it was the Mother Mary’s favorite color and I thought that Jesus would notice me if I wore his mother’s favorite color. For me Lent was all about working to get God’s attention.

Somewhere in my teenaged years someone told me about grace. They shared that I did not have to do anything to get God’s attention, I already had it because he made me and he loves me. My head momentarily shut off so that my heart could listen. I was loved! I was wanted by God just as I was, no perfect behavior or extreme sacrifice on my part was needed! Unfortunately I threw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, and stopped honoring the Lent season. I did not see the richness that this tradition could bring into my life when observed from a viewpoint of love and acceptance instead of works and falling short of perfection. Fast forward a few decades in my life to a point where I was reintroduced to the beauty of a Lent season bathed in grace.

My adult Lent disciplines may mirror my childhood ones, but the motivation is completely different. The childish me sought to be good enough for God to get God’s attention. The adult me practices the discipline to get my attention on God.

My prayer for you this Lent season is that you will know the freedom of being unconditionally love and accepted just as you are.

Contributed by Lida Merrill, Spiritual Life Director, Heritage Christian Services, Inc.

Faith, Hope and Inclusion

Faith, Hope and Inclusion: Believing Together is the thought provoking name of an event that Heritage Christian Services sponsored through funding from New York State’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

When we started to plan this community building educational outreach to local clergy and caregivers we struggled with what to call it. We did not want to use the word disabled, or any of its derivatives, in the title because we believe that relationships and community are outside of the confines of disability or impairment. As our planning team talked about the word inclusion one of the ideals of inclusion that we kept returning to is that included people are honored, valued  and loved people. Faith Hope and Inclusion grew from the New Testament words: Now abides these three things- faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.

Faith. No one is excluded from having faith. People with disabilities have the capacity to express deep faith: faith in God, faith in God’s unconditional acceptance, faith in their ability to contribute and make a difference, faith to belong in a community of believers.

Hope. Hope is deeper than an optimistic outlook; it is the belief that the God of love is present and at work in creation. Hope steers the human heart. Hope gets us up and out of bed in the morning. No person is excluded from having hope.

Inclusion. Belonging… being seen as part of all, every, everyone, everybody and the world. An included person is valued and is missed when she or he is not there. An included person is a loved person.

Believing Together.  By definition a community is more than one person united by a common belief, interest or activity. A faith community is united by a common spiritual or belief system.  It is expected that the members of a community work together to strengthen their community; relationship and respect, including and encouraging, differences and dignity flourish in healthy communities. When people with disabilities are included in communities of people who are believing together the community is strengthened.

Faith, Hope and Inclusion: Believing Together. Together we will learn who, what, when, where, why and how to include people with disabilities and those who love them in our communities of faith and beyond.

Welcome to AbleFaith

Welcome to AbleFaith, a growing community of people exploring the intersection of faith and disability. Much of what is written here is from a Judeo-Christian point of view as that is our frame of reference. However, all faiths are invited into this community of AbleFaith.

We believe that each person is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We believe that each person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We believe that each person is loved by God (John 3:16). We believe that each person has the ability to develop a relationship with God (Romans 10:9-13). We believe that each person has gifts and talents given by God (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We believe that each person desires to connect with a community of faith as fellow members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). These beliefs shape the manner in which we seek to journey with people as they explore life, spirituality and faith.

The community of AbleFaith exists to journey with each other. Whether you are an individual with a disability, or connected to someone with a disability as a family member, friend, neighbor, clergy, employer or paid caregiver we are learning and growing together concerning what it means to believe, belong, become.