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Hallo again to all.

Radical. Radical Christianity. Radical Orthodoxy. Radical Evangelism. Radical Reconstructionist. Radical Rescue. Radical Reformation. Radical Acceptance.

Over the last decade 'radical' has become quite a buzzword. The news covers the destruction caused by 'radical' Islamists and movies feature the doings of 'radical' turtles. Radical connotes far-reaching change— going beyond what is there and changing the fundamental nature of something.

Today we heard a homily ostensibly about Radical Hospitality. This phrase has been circling around the church for nearly the whole decade. Lonni Collins Pratt and Roman Catholic priest Daniel Homan, authors of the 2005 book Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love, quote St Benedict's law: 'All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.'

The Rt. Revd Frank Weston of Zanzibar, at the Concluding Address of the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress, wrote

'Now go out into the highways and hedges where not even the Bishops will try to hinder you. Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.'

Radical indeed.

Robert Schnase, of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, writes:

'Congregations that practice Radical Hospitality demonstrate an active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ.' Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile.

Little if any of this seems radical to us—going the second mile hardly seems to exemplify the extreme of welcoming all—ALL—who present themselves. It seems rather to be asking people to be welcoming of and inviting to those we don't know personally, a very different statement. Which brings us back to this morning's homily. The preacher mentioned some new ministries the parish was starting—a free monthly dinner open to all in this mid-to-lower income town and joining the area Meals on Wheels programmes. He also mentioned the possibility of being inviting towards those who leave cigarette butts and empty fizzy drink bottles lying on church grounds after playing games on their phones. 'How original!' we thought. Acting welcoming towards those you find annoying as a way to bring them into the community. Shocking—feeding people through an agency, again how unheard of.

As Christians we are called to welcome to the outcast and the sinner. How then, are we furthering this radical call—offering far beyond what would typically be considered hospitality. It is not, let us be clear, that we take any sort of issue with the sorts of ministries this parish plans to be involved with. They are hospitality and they are outreach. Rather we question the use of the word Radical. Radicalism is extreme. It calls for a major change—thinking outside the box and doing something to make major change and going outside our comfort zone. Examples that are simply 'the sorts of things one expects a church to do' dilute the word. Would Jesus call this radical, or merely ordinary?

Following Christ in the world isn't easy, especially if we would rather be sitting with a nice book. Any service towards God is good and right, but perhaps we shouldn't be congratulating ourselves on a normal job adequately done.

See you next week.

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28 August 2016

A thin blue line
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