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One of the books I’ve been reading through this strange year is Northern Light: The Cistercian Nuns of the Tautra Mariakloster. It’s a collection of monthly reflections from a small convent on what seems like the northern edge of the world in Norway.

I read the entry for July this last weekend and was struck by a few sentences from Sister Hanne-Maria Berentzen about hospitality. “ . . . We may be tired, we may want more space, more solitude, more silence. Yet hospitality is a basic Benedictine and Christian feature. In our search for God he will remind us again and again that our life is a life given. The claims of hospitality will pull us out of our comfort zone. If we can follow Christ also then, he will give us the strength we need . . . The guests are as important for us as we are for them.”

I’m pretty sure what struck me the first time was the part about being tired, wanting more space, more solitude, more silence. We live in a modest home and it’s been a lot of togetherness for this introverted mom this summer, with all five of us and the dog at home. But what caught my attention when I was copying the words into my journal on Monday was the last sentence. “The guests are as important for us as we are for them.”

It caught my attention because this Sunday, for the first time since we’ve started regathering, we had a visitor join us for worship, a visitor none of us knew. We’ve had traveling family members and people we met on zoom and neighbors come, but no one had met this guy before. He came late and sat in the back and wasn’t super quiet. And it was a little uncomfortable. I could see a few folks glancing his way during the sermon. When it was time for Communion, he came forward and received the elements with an enthusiasm that seemed effervescent.

And then, just as the line of folks coming forward was starting to come to an end, he came jogging back up to the front, looking a bit like he was doing a victory lap. He circled around, saluted me and said with a smile, “I forgot to say, ‘and also with you, pastor’ – and also with you!’” And then jogged back to his seat, and left soon after.

It was as I was writing in my journal on Monday, “guests are as important for us as we are for them” that I realized the significance of his words to me. He was reminding me of exactly what I needed to know – that the body of Christ was given for me, and the blood of Christ was shed for me.

I love serving communion to our congregation. I love praying for them as they receive that they will feel enfolded in Jesus’ love for them. And this stranger was offering the same gift to me – a spoken extra reminder that Jesus’ love isn’t only for my congregation, but also for tired, sometimes wanting more space and solitude and silence, me.

It reminded me of the Heidelberg Catechism’s definition of true faith: “True faith is not only a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his word is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been forever made right with God, and have been granted salvation.”

Deep rooted assurance, created by the Spirit through the gospel, and re-enforced by an unknown guest.

Communion Photo by Carlynn Alarid on Unsplash

Elizabeth Vander Haagen

Elizabeth Vander Haagen co-pastors Boston Square Christian Reformed Church with her husband Jay Blankespoor.  They live in Grand Rapids, Michigan with their children Emma, Brianna, and Peter, and their dog Luna.


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