This past week at thinplaceNASHVILLE, our house church gathering we host on Sunday nights, we looked at Matthew 22:34-40 which includes loving your neighbor as yourself, especially looking at the concept of WELCOME.
And in practical terms, we are learning how to welcome and integrate kids of all ages into our gatherings on Sunday nights. Usually we have a half an hour of silence to sit with the gospel passage, journal from the passage, or create art from the passage. We knew in advance that we would have more than our usual two children on Sunday night so we decided to host a thinplace sing-a-long as a part of our gathering so everyone could participate and feel included. And since this is Music City, we are blessed with talented music people who will bring along their guitars and drums and even share rhythm instruments for all of us who don’t play something officially. Our gathering Sunday night included several guests and we ran the gamut from 6 years old to almost 60 years of age.
After a baked potato bar dinner and ice cream for dessert, we gathered in the living room and opened with our candle lighting prayer for God to fill us with God’s hope, peace, joy and love and make us aware of God’s Light. Then we prayed a psalm out loud together.
Then we listened to the gospel lesson read in three versions. Since we had so many kids present, we let a an eleven year old read our lesson from the Whirl Kids Story Bible to start us off. Then we heard the same passage read from The Message and from the NIV version. Three versions and three voices. Listening for the word or phrase that jumped out at us. Since this passage is on the two greatest commandments, LOVE GOD and LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR we talked about starting to love our neighbors by getting to know the people who live next door to us. Starting with those who are closest to us first. We talked about welcome and hospitality.
Who are our neighbors? Do we know them? How can we serve them and practice hospitality and welcome?
I talked about the Pineapple being a long-time symbol of welcome and hospitality. When sea captains returned from their trips to the Caribbean they would put a pineapple on their fence post as a symbol that they were home and it was invitation to come over, grab a pint and hear the stories about his adventures and travels. The Pineapple was also so valuable in the days before refrigeration, that a single pineapple would be rented out by hostesses who wanted to show how much his or her guests were valued. If a whole Pineapple was on the table, you knew that the host had spared no expense. Sadly, only the very wealthy could afford to actually eat the pineapple, not just use it as a decoration.
I passed out pieces of paper that had a printed welcome mat and a picture of a pineapple drawn on them and had everyone consider who in their lives needed to feel the welcome of God and know God’s love? They picked a person to pray for that week. And I encouraged them when they saw a welcome mat out and about in the days and weeks to come, to use that as a reminder to pray for this person or persons.
The Pineapple outline symbolized one tangible thing each of us could do for a neighbor this week to show God’s love to them.
After our singing time, as a closing response to our theme of Welcome, I passed around squares of fresh pineapple to eat and continue our WELCOME theme. We then prayed our closing prayer together and kids went out to blow bubbles and the adults continued to play music and sing.
You can do this with your own community or small group or even around your dining table with your family or roommates
- Have a real welcome mat on the floor as a visual.
- Print out small welcome mats and pineapple outlines. There are even pineapple post it notes that you can find at Office Depot,
- Buy a fresh Pineapple and or pre-cut fresh pineapple or even canned chunks to use as the taste symbol of WELCOME as the closing.
- Have group members write down the person’s name on their printed welcome mat and write down their practical response of welcome and hospitality on the pineapple.
- Pick a person to pray for this week who needs to know they are loved and welcomed by God. Use the Welcome Mats you see in the coming days as reminders to pray for this person or people. Also, you can use the Welcome Mats you see to remind you to practice welcome and hospitality to everyone you meet!
- What tangible thing can you do for your neighbor this week to show God’s love them?