I have been observing one of our newer members in her interactions lately, and concluded that she has a gift for showing hospitality, something I believe to be one of the necessary components of being an evangelist. I think if I were to bring this to her attention, she would not understand what I was talking about. In fact, I thanked her last week, for being so welcoming to visitors, and she said, "Is that all?"
Her name is Ella. She is -- oh, I think 5 or 6 years old.
Last week I observed her in action at a new member dinner. She went up to a girl about her own age, introduced herself, and said, "Do you want to play with me?" They skipped off together, holding hands. This last Sunday, when all the children were invited up to watch a baptism from close range, I noticed a little girl, new to the congregation, coming up for the first time. She was a little shy about being there, but when she saw Ella, she inched her way over so that she could be closer to her.
Making a genuine invitation to friendship, knowing how to make someone else feel comfortable -- I think it's a gift. Anyone who wants to share the good news about Jesus truthfully -- and successfully -- needs to be truly and genuinely hospitable. Anyone who wants make disciples needs to really care about people, really want to be friends. Anyone can see that Ella is not a fake. She's the real thing. She really wants to play with you. She's really glad you're here. She shares her toys (I think), but most of all she shares herself. And when you thank her for it, she says, "Is that all?" With a few more like her, we really could change the world.
When we look at the children of our congregations, most of the time we look at our responsbilities for them. After all, we have made promises to teach them and to nurture them, to guide them and to protect them. We take those promises seriously. But sometimes in our earnest desire to teach children, we forget to learn from them and to notice that they too are gifted members of the body of Christ. Just like us, they are forgiven sinners used by God's Holy Spirit to accomplish God's mission here. So if we look carefully, we will see them comforting us and teaching us, giving us their hand, and reminding us that we are God's children too. And if we are honest at all, we will admit that we need them and their witness as much as they need us. Maybe more.