Strangers Welcome

the visitor    The Visitor

I watched a lovely movie, The Visitor, while I was on holidays. It illustrates the theme of welcoming a stranger, in a world where we have become so afraid to reach out to those who are different to us.

 

It reminded me that years ago, on my first international trip I arrived in a new country and saw the word ‘Alien’ in the Customs area and discovered that was what I was! I remember lining up as an alien, laughing so much to see that was the term used for a visitor!  I was only an alien for a short time. But it remains the ‘legal’ term we use for those who are not fellow countrymen.

 

Alien…really?

 

And the Bible talks about aliens a lot as well.

The call to welcome the stranger is anchored in the Torah and was a part of the measure of the Hebrew community’s faithfulness to God.

And not just in the Old Testament. Paul reminded the Romans to offer hospitality to the alien, and in the Letter to the Hebrews talks of us being aliens and strangers in a foreign land.

 

Who are the strangers among us?

Those unknown to the community. Those who are aliens, often foreigners, people who had different foods, different clothes, different languages, different gods.

 

Opening one’s home was risky. Today we’d describe such a thing as out and out foolish.

 

What happens though,

…when we learn a stranger’s name?

…when we meet their family?

…when we hear their rich life story?

 

Welcome the stranger and see how involved God is in it.

It’s part of our identity. It has long been the stamp of the Christian community. Does that still ‘live on’ in us?

The risk did not define the people of God; their hospitality did, for they knew such hospitality was central to the character of their God.

 

This movie points out wonderful connections and surprises that come in the welcoming of strangers. (although, if I was to put on the hat of a movie critic, the story line is rather idealistic and at times simplistic) None-the-less, if you want another perspective on welcoming a strangers, check out The Visitor.

I’ll catch you after the movie

I was reminded today of a flight I was on a number of years ago, returning from Perth.

It was the cheap, red-eye, and it happened that my birthday arrived mid-flight as we moved into a new day. The plane had many of my friends onboard as we’d just been to a national gathering for all the Aussie Vineyard churches. Spirits were high and there was lots of crazy banter (plus they all sang happy birthday to me when it was midnight!)

I was smiling at that memory today,  and thinking “oh those poor passengers who were on that flight.”  Crazy days!

Then it all came flooding back. I was window-seat, and on the aisle was a young, energetic, bright guy who was from our church. There was a stranger who was unfortunate to get seated in the middle seat of our row of three.

That can be uncomfortable at the best of times, but this flight must have been tough for him, because of our frivolity.

We got into conversation. “Where are you guys all from? etc” and all three of us were chatting for quite some time. He had a bad experience with ‘church’ and so was sharing some of his story with us.  It was one of those conversations that I was really aware of a seeking heart in this man but we were all starting to fade as the early-morning hours kicked in. (I can also remember thinking “oh the movie is about to start!”)

Here’s the crunch….after a long time chatting, and being given opportunity to share with this guy, I can remember feeling like we’d gone as far as we could at that hour, and so we said we were going to catch the movie, and started getting our headsets ready. At that point, my birthday silliness and lack of sleep kicked in and I said “Hey but if you have any more questions, write them down! We’ll catch you after the movie.” And we proceeded to hit that movie zone of quiet and stillness….

Some time into the movie, out the corner of my eye, I saw a notepad and pen being used, scribbled on, and this guy had been writing…I sat there stunned.  Slowly I took off my headset and we started talking quietly again…he showed me his page full of written (and very genuine) questions.

I’m not sure why that memory came back today, but I am so aware that there are many moments in my day when i could easily zone out and miss life encounters going on all around me.

What? You’re kidding!

I know, I know! You thought this site was dead and buried, but I’m resurrecting it! If you are a regular visitor you’ll see some focus on worship as I’m participating in the Essentials Blue worship studies online course done via St Stephen’s Uni with Dan Wilt and crew. This space will be carrying quite a few posts related to that…so I’m just warning you!!!

Looking forward to writing again….it’s been a good break!

REturning and REfreshed

After a great break, I’m back at the computer. I’ve had such a wonderful time away and have been kept busy with all sorts of things.

Ten weeks and alot can happen…there seems to have been alot of ‘life’ going on in that time…babies being born, engagements, weddings, birthdays…and so on. I’m catching up with all this ‘news’ from people here, there and everywhere. Things which both contain drama as well as the normal routine of life. I hear from a friend who came home to find their house ablaze; others who are in hospital having surgery; a resignation; lawns that have grown even without rain; a new couple coming to YVV as Lead Pastor; things broken which I need to attend to; people moving to the ski fields and some have left overseas.

So while there’s an appreciation of feeling very relaxed and certainly refreshed, this first week has been very much full of ‘news’.

People have asked me what my highlights have been. I always answer ‘ah definitely a highlight was not having to work!’ To which I’m amazed that there’s been a diversity of reactions. Now I love to work and to be a part of all that involves. But what a gift to have the opportunity to experience time away assisting me to realign with a different rhythm. This has been so worthwhile.

I heard a great interview with Eugene Peterson (author of The Message Bible) about balance and rhthym verses living by schedule. He says rhythm is very much geared towards the individual and we don’t do it all in the same way. It has been a challenge, but a rich thing to learn more about that. Eugene talks about living out of who you are in relation to who Jesus is. We find it so hard to escape this scheduled world we live in. 

Some people can walk in three-quarter time and some in four four time, like a dance. You have to find it out of your own body, your own life, your own history. Eugene says that for many of us, the place it begins is the Sabbath. In this interview, he talks about specifics of what that can look like. He shares with such a handle on reality…drawing in those of us who live with mobile phones, PDA’s, laptops and so on, and to those who live in the context of young families and all their needs. If you get a chance to go over to Catalyst Podcast, Episode 5.

There’s a lot of talk about how do we have longevity with this life of faith, without getting burnt out and running on our own resources. Right now, I’m aware of what it is like to be REfreshed, REconnected, REjuvinated, REignited, RElaxed and Really grateful that God gifted me with that time away.

Auto Pilot or melt down?

Things are slowing down on this post for just a little while…I’m snowed under as I prepare to take some time away on leave for 10 weeks! How cool is that and yes, I’m counting down (I start on Monday 12th Feb.) But as you all know, there’s alot to do to prepare for an exit!

My brain is on auto-pilot as I run to finish this week… so blogging won’t be very succinct anyway (see it’s all about protecting you all from rantings and ravings!) Seriously, I’m not sure how the blog is going to go wedged into the new site, so this one might be redeveloped or renamed or reshaped…when I get my brain back!

Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can venture back here before I fly off to my break…right now, I’m sitting in a very hot room, and my autopilot brain is actually in meltdown!

AVCA and the Worship Development Role

Many of you know that I have been involved in a worship development role with AVCA for the last two years. This contract with AVCA will end next week, 31st January 2007. Here’s part of the letter Peter Downes (National director of AVCA) wrote to the churches last week explaining the role finishing, in case you have not caught up with this news:

“Greetings Everyone.

Over the last two years the Movement has benefitted greatly by the role that Di Hocking has fulfilled as our Worship Development person.  Many of you have given testimony to me of the value that Di has been to you and your worship communities. Unfortunately at the end of this month Di’s two year contract comes to an end. Financial resources don’t stretch enough for us as a Movement to be able to continues Di’s role and to resource the many other goals and plans that we have, so alas, we have decided not to renew the contract.

We want to convey sincerely our thanks and gratitude to Di for a job well done.  Not renewing her contract is in no way a reflection of how she has carried out her role, or of us lessening the value with which we regard worship in our movement.” There’s more in this letter but I’ll cut it short there.

As part of the changes surrounding me at the moment, both within the local church (YVV) and with this national role concluding, on Feb 12, I will be taking long service leave for a couple of months to catch my breath a bit.

I have really enjoyed the privilege of being able to participate with the mission of AVCA. I wish the AVCA board well as they focus on new goals for the coming year.

It’s been great meeting so many different, crazy and amazing God-followers. I hope we’ll all keep in touch.

NEW: AVCA Worship Website

This time next week, we will be launching a new website linked to the AVCA site. It will be going public on Wed 31st January.

We have been working on it over the last couple of months, and there has been some clever people who have found our links and started to direct people to the site. I’m delighted that you’re so quick off the mark Scott and Christina! Champion bloggers at work!

This site has evolved after trialling this blog over the last 6 months, and I also tested the waters with the previous Music library to share our Aussie Vineyard worship songs. So we’ve added a bunch of extra features (such as places for members to contribute on a wider level), so the site becomes more an Aussie Vineyard expression with all our wonderful diversity.

I’m not going to say much more….you’ll have to wait till we go live next week. The other exciting part is that we are inviting the NZ Vineyard worship community to connect more with us as well.

So, next week, we’ll have all our testing of the site done and will be looking forward to you visiting. If you are in an Aussie Vineyard church, you can start pulling together a bio and introduce yourself as soon as the site opens. And…you may have new songs you’ve written and are singing, or articles you’ve written etc…to share with us straight away….that’s gonna be a blast!

Previous Older Entries