Rustlings (October 23, 2017)

I’ve preached it for years. It has served as the theme for numerous retreats I’ve led. It was the subject of a class I taught for graduate students in seminary. The Spiritual Practice of Hospitality is simply and gracefully opening a space so that God can do God’s work. Friday evening, 1400+ people filled our Sanctuary to share the music of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. In the days that followed, almost 3000 viewers accessed the Livestream recording of the event. Here are just a few of the messages I’ve received…

“It has been over 40 years since I have attended a revival service. But last evening, along with a ‘standing room only’ congregation of God’s children, I witnessed a true revival service.”

“I was in tears as the choir was walking in. And so were they.”

“This is the first time I’ve been in a church in years. Never thought I’d be welcomed. Can you recommend a good church for me in San Francisco?”

“I left the concert a happier and more hopeful person. The laughter and tears were healing.”

“I am not a person of faith, but I was amazed at what I saw at First Baptist. You exemplified the love of Jesus.”

“I never thought I’d set foot in a church again. I’m here tonight. I’ve decided I’ll be back Sunday.”

“Dr. Dant, thank you and your congregation for welcoming us, receiving our gifts and treating us like the people of faith we are. You made a space for God to do God’s work last night and many souls were healed; mine included. Thank you.”

“After tonight, I have a longing and a want to attend a Sunday service at First Baptist and experience the love and warmth again.”

We laughed. We cried. We loved each other.

Welcoming ‘the stranger’ always creates the opportunity for healing and community. It often takes some effort. Sometimes it’s really hard, but it wouldn’t be a spiritual ‘practice’ if were always natural and easy. I’m going to keep practicing. I’ve found that in moments of hospitality, I most vividly see the grace of God, the gifts of God and the image of God in each of God’s children…and I hope the stranger sees the same in me…

— Jim