Let love be genuine:
hate what is evil,
hold fast to what is good,
love one another with mutual affection,
outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not lag in zeal,
be ardent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
be patient in suffering,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints
extend hospitality to strangers.   
(Romans 12:9-13)


The season of Lent begins this year on Valentine’s Day, a fitting time to focus on the invitation to “create in us new hearts”. The passage above could be the source of a whole year of meditations on what a “new heart” might look like; it is certainly more than ample for the 40 days of Lent. Which of these 13 exhortations calls to you, invites you into some personal reflection? The one that struck me was the final one: extend hospitality to strangers.
Paul is inviting us into an expansion of heart, asking us to extend the kindness and welcome and generosity that we share with family and friends to strangers. Strangers are not only people we have never met. They are those who come from “somewhere else”. They can include all those who seem “strange” to us, who are different from us, whose ways and views are unfamiliar, perhaps uncomfortable. The stranger presents to us as “Other”- the one we do not know or understand, and maybe even have no real desire at all to do so. In so many ways in this current age we are “strangers” to one another- whether divided by race, creed, theology, political ideology, culture or gender identity. And yet, this invitation to extend ourselves in love.
Who are the “strangers” knocking at the door of your heart, asking for a hospitable welcome?

Pastor Annette