Walking through the doors to Redeemer Lincoln Square’s first service on April 16, was like Christmas morning! What a gift it was to be at the birth of a brand new church. To experience with our senses what had been envisioned, planned and prayed for by so many felt surreal. We could tell that every detail of the service was intentionally thought out to make this church a home for the stranger, no matter who you are or what you believe. We immediately felt comfortable enough to start inviting “strangers” of our own.
In fact, 27 years ago, we were the strangers being invited. A couple we knew who were attending Redeemer casually asked us to join them one Sunday. A bit reluctantly, we accepted their offer and eventually attended their community group. Their hospitality led us into a deep relationship that we continue to have to this day. The writer of the book of Hebrews instructs us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2), and that is exactly what our friends showed us.
We tend to think of hospitality as merely coffee, cake and polite conversation. But if you take away the ity from the word hospitality, you are left with the word “hospital.” You go from “welcoming strangers” to “nurturing and caring” for them. This is an accurate description of how we became vulnerable with one another, becoming “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1). Having been the recipients of this hospitality nearly three decades ago, we are excited and encouraged to welcome in the strangers who come to Lincoln Square.
So on April 16, as we celebrated the resurrection of our Savior, we looked out on our congregation, all of us new and everyone just as thrilled as the next, and we wondered, “Do you know that the people you meet today might change from strangers to friends, and from friends to family, and that New York City might become home?” As our lead pastor Michael Keller preached at that first service, “Who knows? Your best years may be all ahead of you!” By God’s grace the apostle Paul’s words will be true of us all that “though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (1 Corinthians 4:16). We look forward to renewing and being renewed as we continue on this journey together.
This fall, Rev. Michael Keller will lead Redeemer Lincoln Square in a new sermon series called “Conversations With Jesus” as we continue building a church that is for others, not ourselves.