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Sunday message: Something that will never hurt us

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 26, 2019

Scriptures:

John 14:23–29

Psalm 67

Acts 16:9–15

The well-known American preacher and professor of preaching, Fred Craddock told a story about a time when he was a young preacher fresh out of seminary, he pastored a small church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. At that time, Oak Ridge was growing fast. Many of the newcomers lived in a mobile home park located near the church. The trailer park was packed with newcomers, including a large number of children. Fred saw all those new people and thought his church ought to reach out to them and extend hopsitality to them. So at the next Board meeting Fred recommended a plan to reach out to the newcomers. “Oh, I don’t know” said the chairman of the board. “They might not fit in here very well.” Fred said, “But they live right next to our church. I think we should invite them to worship with us.” But Fred got resistance to the idea. They finally decided to table the discussion and deal with it at their next business meeting.

At that meeting a member said, “I move that in order to be a member of this church you have to own property in the county.” “I’ll second that motion,” said another man. Fred was shocked and spoke against it. But in the end, the motion passed. As a result, no effort was made to reach out to the newcomers. Soon thereafter Fred left that church. 

Twenty years later, Fred and his wife were driving past Oak Ridge on a trip through Tennessee. Since he was single when he served that church, his wife had never seen it. So Fred decided to show it to her. As they drove to the church, Fred told his wife that painful story about the church refusing to reach out to newcomers. It took a while to find the church. Lots of new roads and homes had been built in the area. But they finally found the spot. The beautiful white frame church was sitting there as always, but something was different. There was a big parking lot out front full of cars, trucks, motor homes and including motorcycles. 

As they pulled into the lot they saw a big sign in front of the church. It said, “BBQ: All You Can Eat.” It was a restaurant! Fred and his wife went inside and the place was packed with all kinds of people—white and black and Hispanic. Rich and poor. Southerners and northerners. Fred said to his wife, “It’s a good thing this isn’t a church anymore. If it were, these people would not be allowed in.” 1.)

This story is a speaking example of how not to practice hospitality. It also shows the consequences of not welcoming the stranger. 

In Biblical times there was a very high regard for hospitality. The original biblical word for hospitality found in Romans 12:13 can literally be translated as “love of strangers.” 

When you are new to a neighbourhood, to a school, or alone at a party, it can be quite challenging.

Paul and his friends also felt like strangers  on their first outreach to Europe. 

In the city of Philippi (in northern Greece) Lydia, a trader in expensive purple woolen cloth became the first convert of Europe. After her conversion, she immediately showed hospitality towards Paul and his friends by begging them to stay over at her house. 

It’s not only for churches, even businesses understand the importance of hospitality. 

Danny Meyer, one of the most famous restaurateurs in New York City attributes his success not just to the quality of food, but to the attention he places on hospitality, the love of strangers. The title of his book speaks for itself. It is “Setting the table: the transforming power of hospitality in business.” 2.)

Danny says everyone wants great service. However, there is a difference between service—someone doing what they’re supposed to do—versus hospitality. According to Danny service doesn’t say anything about how someone made you feel. Hospitality does. 

Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 3.)

Hospitality as presented to us in Scriptures is not merely a practice. To the contrary, it is a way of life. 

Paul is not the one who opened Lydia’s heart—it’s God who did that. Paul spoke the words but it was God who opened her heart to Jesus.

Through God’s Spirit, God was already at work in Lydia’s life. The attraction she felt to the Jewish faith was God speaking into her life, telling her there was something more for her. 

Her association with the Jewish women of the town was God’s way to bring her closer to God. Finally, when she heard Paul speak words of love and peace and hope, and how she could find those things in Jesus, she understood.

She understood God had been reaching out to her, offering grace, love, acceptance. God opened Lydia’s heart.

And in return, Lydia opened her house to Paul and his friends. She had herself and her whole household baptized. And she insisted that Paul and his companions come and stay with her. Lydia opened her home because she understood Paul’s message about God: We were once alienated from God, strangers, others. We built up walls between us and God. But Jesus tore down the wall that divides us from God. We were strangers once. But now we are welcomed as friends, family even.

Because God welcomed us into the family of God, we need to welcome strangers, aliens, others. People who aren’t like us. We welcome them because Christ welcomes us into the family of faith.

– Real hospitality is uncomfortable.

– Real hospitality is risky.

– Real hospitality costs something.

Lydia took a big risk by inviting Paul and his friends to stay at her home. They were outsiders, foreigners with strange ideas.

As their story goes on, Paul and friends were arrested for disturbing the peace, sent to jail, and finally released.

As their host, Lydia ran the risk of being associated with Paul and his strange ideas. The crowds of people could have turned on her. But she was a believer now. She practiced hospitality, despite the risks.    

I still find myself erring on the side of safety, it worth asking ourself the honest question about how we do with regard to being hospitable?   

 

1.) Six Disciples: Lydia, The Virtue of Hospitality” Acts 16:11-15, 40

A Sermon by Pastor Bob Kells (https://pastorwellerumc.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/150906_six-disciples_sermon_lydia_virtue-of-hospitality_acts-16.pdf)

2.) Meyer, Danny (2006) Setting the table: the transforming power of hospitality in business; Harper, NY

3.) Genis, Kobus (2015) @GodsTweet #Follow God, p. 142

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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