Date: February 7, 1999 Where: SHMC Words:
Sermon Title: Hospitality: A Trademark of the Christian Church
W. L: Ann G. Invocation/Einleitung: Carlos F. Naomy T.
· Then, there is the story of the pastor who felt that their church was a bit stuffy and could use a bit of friendliness. So, one Sunday he announced that the following Sunday they were going to start a custom of shaking hands and greeting each other. At the close of the service a man turned around to the lady behind and said "Good morning," and she looked at him with shock at his boldness and said, "I beg your pardon! That friendliness business doesn't start until next Sunday."
· The other day I read in a church newsletter about a man who visited 18 different churches on successive Sundays. He was trying to find out what the churches were really like. He said, "I sat near the front. After the service, I walked slowly to the rear, then returned to the front and back to the foyer using another aisle. I smiled, dressed neatly. I asked one person to direct me to a specific place: a fellowship hall, pastor's study, etc. I remained for coffee if it was served." He writes, "I used a scale to rate the reception I received. I awarded points on the following basis: 10 points for a smile from a worshipper 10 for a greeting from someone sitting nearby 100 for an exchange of names 200 for and invitation to have coffee 200 for an invitation to return 1000 for an introduction to another worshipper 2000 for an invitation to meet the pastor. On this scale, 11 of the 18 churches earned fewer than 100 points. Five actually received less than 20.
· The conclusion: The faith teaching may be biblical, the singing inspirational, the sermon uplifting, but when a visitor finds nobody who cares whether he's here, he is not likely to come back.
· What do you think about our church? Is it possible for an outsider to come into our church and leave totally unnoticed?
Today we talk about hospitality, and the motivation for widening the welcome of our church.
· Generally, we feel good when we enter a home, and we are greeted with a floor mat in front of the door that says: "Welcome!" or a verse on the wall "God bless all who enter this home."
· We get defensive when we stare at a sign that says: "Beware of dog" or "No Trespassing".
· We get similar feelings when we are surrounded by people who are different from ourselves - i.e. dif. language, customs, food, form of dressing, etc.
· This happens not only in our culture, but also in our church life, where we sometimes avoid contact with people who are newcomers, or we stare at the young people who's clothes don't fit and haven't combed their hair properly, or when we avoid contact with a person with disabilities.
· As individuals and as a church body, without realizing it, we sometimes send unspoken signals that say "keep out - high voltage area", or "beware of guard dog".
· We also use subtle ways within the church membership to "freeze out" people who think and feel differently from the accepted norm.
· On the other hand, an honestly friendly atmosphere is a place where we can feel safe.
· Think of a time when you went to a friend's home after a long, hard and discouraging day: you are greeted with a warm hug and your friend says, "Oh, its so nice you could come, we have missed you!"
· After dinner you sit by the fireplace and tell stories of yesteryear that fill your hearts with laughter.
· Long after you feel you have overstayed your welcome you say, "We had a lovely evening, but we really must be going now."
· And your host replies, "Do you really have to go so soon? We hope you can come back soon."
· What a great feeling to be wanted and appreciated as a person - isn't it.
· We all crave to belong and to be wanted in the company of others.
· I guess that's a secret that God's people have understood throughout the Bible.
· For example, the Old Testament gives many examples of God's will in respect to hospitality.
· Outsiders or aliens or strangers in the language of the Bible are those people who are not a part of the people of Israel, but who interact with them and come in contact with them.
Abraham gives us a good example of the meaning of hospitality in the OT.
· In the story of Abraham and the three angelic visitors (Gen. 18) we have a picture of genuine hospitality in the ancient world: a respected father (Abraham) sits at the tent door in the shade, not only to enjoy the refreshing air, but so that if he saw any weary travelers, he might invite them to rest and refresh themselves during the heat of the day. It was not the custom, nor was it necessary, for strangers to knock at the door, or to speak first, but to stand till they were invited. The same custom still continues in the east. (Gen 18:1, 15:1; 17:1-3,22 26:2 48:3; Ex 4:1; 2Ch 1:7; Ac 7:2;13:18 14:13.
· He runs to greet his unexpected guests, then he hurries off to instruct Sarah to prepare bread for a meal, then he runs again to choose an animal for the feast, and serves them (lit. “he stands before them”) in service.
· Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress an alien; for you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt."
· Lev. 19:10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
· Parents are sometimes given the advise, "If you want to keep your kids, you have to open your home and your fridge to their friends."
· Strangers and guests are also to benefit from the fruits of the community.
· Deut 10:18 God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.
· In biblical terms, hospitality is the act of giving friendship to a visitor.
· In the ancient Near East, hospitality was the process of ‘receiving’ outsiders and changing them from strangers to guests and members of the community.
· Quite different from our modern day understanding, hospitality had nothing to do with entertaining family and friends.
· In the NT Jesus redefines the principle of hospitality, when he says to his host (Lk.14:12-14). “When you give a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
· The Apostles of the early church fully understood the critical importance of their openness and acceptance of outsiders.
· Christian travelling Preachers were often dependent on the hospitality of people in the communities they visited.
· Church historians maintain that Christianity would probably not have survived without the distinctive characteristic of hospitality and compassion in the early church.
· That is, the motivating life force of the early church was the love of Christ toward all people.
· In His name they reached out to the needs of their community and they ministered to people and brought them into the church.
· You may be saying: "So what!? That was then - this is now! What does hospitality have to do with me and our church today?"
· I believe that as followers of Christ we carry at the heart of our very Being a responsibility and a privilege to reach out to others.
· Hospitality is a part of who we are as people of God! It's in our blood! Indeed, it's a Trademark of those who are washed by the Blood of the Lamb.
· May the Word of God today refresh our memories concerning the practice of hospitality.
· May we open our hearts and our homes, alongside our spiritual home - this House of Worship - to guests and strangers.
· Who knows, by reaching out to strangers we too may be hosting a messenger of the Living God.
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, ().