I saw her before she saw me — her eyes taking in the surroundings and the people, looking for a familiar face.

I waved her over, so delighted she had taken me up on the invitation to meet me for service. “Hi, friend! I’m so glad you’re here!” As we made our way through the lobby, I asked, “Do you want to grab a coffee before the service starts?” My friend seemed a bit uncertain.

“Do we have time? Isn’t the service starting now.”  My friend was somewhat surprised when a greeter at the coffee bar assured her that it would be okay for us to take our coffees with us inside the Sanctuary.

“You — and your coffee — are welcome here.”

That was last year.  Since then, my friend and I have become members at Grace.  We have stepped into service and learned so much about Grace’s intentional approach to hospitality.  These days, when my friend and I walk in to the Sanctuary with our coffees, we do it bearing witness to the importance of hospitality in helping others take their next steps towards Christ.

A few weeks ago, that entire scene – including the amazed-by-coffee-in-The-Sanctuary part — happened again with another sweet friend who joined me at Grace for her first Sunday service.

Since it was her first visit, I was happy to accommodate to her request to sit near the back (rather than my usual spot on the front row).  We were seated to the right of the sound booth.

If you have never sat through a service in this part of the Sanctuary, then let me be the first to tell you that there is a whole ministry (or two) happening back there!

The unabashed worship that happens in the audio booth when Hilary is running the sound board is a joyful and contagious event to behold! And if you are looking for a definition of “radical hospitality,” all you need to do is check out the usher team when they spring in to “overflow seating” action. From the back of the room, we had a front row seats to each official and unofficial ministry serving in the Sanctuary. It was glorious!

As we said our goodbyes, my friend said, “You were Jesus to me today.”

What a beautiful thing to be told. I think what my friend experienced at Grace that day was the very real and very alive Body of Christ – each of us taking action.

I invited her. She showed up.

You demonstrated your love of Christ. Many of you made and honored commitments to serve that day.

You showed radical hospitality.

You praised and worshiped the Lord with reckless abandon.

You were a stranger who spoke a kind word to her.

You smiled as you passed her in the lobby.

You also were Jesus to her that day.  And you helped her take her next step towards Christ.

I’m reminded of the instruction and wisdom offered to us by the writer of Hebrews:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)

Being with you all at Grace, meeting together and serving together — which is really just another way of saying, “stirring up one another to love and good works”, right? – has encouraged me out of the heavy, soul-tired state I was in the first day that I walked through the doors of Grace.

I had fallen off from regular church attendance and service. I was a still a member of another church and I wasn’t necessarily looking to make a change (but I wasn’t necessarily not looking either). Once in the habit of getting together regularly with friends inside and outside of church, that Sunday was the first time in months that I had gathered to worship and fellowship with God’s people.

Although no one said the words that day, everything about my experience at Grace said “Hi, friend! I’m so glad you’re here!”

You were Jesus to me that day.  I’m so glad you were here.