In seminary I was taught that minsters were virtually the only professionals left who might arrive at someone’s home just to see how they were doing. A doctor wasn’t apt to drop by, nor a lawyer. Even a psychiatrist would be unlikely to make a house call just to see how things were. But it was still considered appropriate for ministers to arrive unannounced. Times have changed. I no longer consider it proper to stop by someone’s home unless they know I am coming, and usually well in advance. There might be exceptions, of course, but if I am concerned about someone my first recourse is normally going to be a phone call through which I may arrange a visit.
But here are Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions - if he comes to you, welcome him” (Colossians 4:10). It’s all rather mysterious sounding. For example I assume the instructions Paul mentions have to do with Mark and not his cousin Barnabas. And what exactly are those instructions? We don’t know, but we do know that Mark (or Barnabas) might simply arrive in Colossae (even Paul doesn’t seem certain) and if he does the church there is to be ready for him.
From the very beginning the church has held hospitality to be an essential part of its ministry. Welcoming one another has always been considered a Christ-like function of who we are. In the words of the the Boy Scout motto we believers are to be prepared, ready to greet one another, open to interruption or intrusion, happy to share whether it be our time or our possessions. Even strangers are to be made welcome as we are told in Hebrews 13:2. Our culture is continually turning in on itself, constantly adding distance between people often with the aid of technology. We can know more and more about someone while not really knowing them at all. But when we open our hearts and lives to one another we find the distance reduced and the barriers removed.
I am not apt to arrive unexpectedly at a church member’s front door. But I do believe very strongly that the church should be open to whatever and whoever God sends our way, be it Mark, Barnabas, or someone else. If they come, we should welcome them.
Prayer: Lord, open us to the unexpectedness of your community and your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.