A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery
June 28, 2012
One of the things for which Pittsburgh is rightly noted is its honest, generous hospitality. Tammy and I recently experienced it firsthand, as we spent a day on foot tracing out the prayer walk through downtown that we have mapped out as a General Assembly activity. We kept checking our map to make sure it was fully accurate – and time and again, as we checked our map, complete strangers stopped in their tracks, offering to help us find our way wherever we wanted to go. One of the most moving was a woman of Asian origin who could barely speak English – but still she stopped to offer her help. What a great city this is! Perhaps Pittsburghers have read their Bible:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
“Extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12:13)
We in Pittsburgh Presbytery have the wonderful opportunity over the next ten days to do a “Pittsburgh Welcome on Steroids” as people coming to our church’s General Assembly descend on our fair city. We have been preparing to host the Assembly for more than two years, and finally it is upon us. Hundreds of volunteers have offered to extend hospitality to our guests in one form or another, from greeting them as they arrive to offering them directions when they are lost to hosting them in our houses of worship to praying for them while they are among us. We will serve them communion, we will usher them in worship, we will meet them at their hotels. We will assist those with special needs, we will be sure translators are at the ready for those who don’t know English. And the list could go on and on.
Here’s a concept I’d like to set before us – let us think of our General Assembly guests as “angels” to whom we are privileged to offer our very best welcome. The Greek word angelos that we translate as angel literally means “messenger.” And that’s exactly what our guests are – messengers from across the breadth of the church. Hebrews 13 says that when we welcome strangers, we may be welcoming God’s messengers without knowing it. How much more, knowing that our guests are literally church messengers, should we extend them the most lavish of hospitality - “Pittsburgh welcome on steroids!”
Famed Pittsburgher Sam Shoemaker once said, “I have a vision that one day Pittsburgh will be more famous for God than for steel.” Today we might add the hope that Pittsburgh be more famous for God than for the Steelers – or the Pirates, or the Penguins, or UPMC for that matter.
May the welcome that we offer the “stranger” who comes to us in the form of a GA attendee help cement our reputation as a people who cares more about honoring God than about anything else. Whether we are official GA volunteers or simply in worship with people we don’t know, let us all consider ourselves official ambassadors of welcome – not just for Pittsburgh Presbytery, for Jesus himself. In so doing, we will be entertaining angels.
And here’s the real fun of it – we’ll get more joy in giving hospitality to our guests than we can possibly imagine. Many of us have benefited from receiving the hospitality of GA hosts in other cities, and have considered ourselves honored thereby. But what awaits us this week is far better. “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive,” says our Lord.
Let us bask in the immeasurable joy of lavishly blessing God’s angels this week!
Arms wide open,
The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery
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