Monday, April 18, 2016

Shine/ Radical Hospitality

To correspond to our theme of Shine, I wanted to study ways we can shine. Let’s look at some Bible verses to look at one way we can do that. I’ve handed out some verses to be read aloud. We’ll start with verses 1-10.

Good Works Verses

1) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (Italy)

2) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10


3) ”…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,  but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.” 1 Timothy 2:9-11

 4) ”Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.” 1 Timothy 5:9,10

 5) ”Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19

6) “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Titus 2:6-8

7) “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13,14

8) “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Titus 3:8

9) “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Titus 3:14

10) “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25

Notice a theme here? How do we shine? Through good works. This will result in praise to God.

We don’t do good works to be saved, as we’re saved by grace (Eph. 2:8,9) “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” But we do good works to show we are saved. (James 2:18b) “…I will show you my faith by my works.”

Today, we’ll look at one particular good work; hospitality. I’ve entitled this message Radical Hospitality.

Radical Hospitality

If you’ve wondered about the title, it’s not some new extreme sport. We aren’t going to be learning X-TREME table setting, or anything like that. But we are going to consider what we’re doing to make people feel welcome in our home and our church, and we’ll be challenged to step it up to the next level.

There will be time for discussion, comments and questions at the end. I also have a small hospitality gift for each of you.

Defining Our Terms

“The word radical means ‘arising from the source’ and describes practices that are rooted in the life of Jesus and that radiate into the lives of others.” It’s the reason we do it.

Radical also describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile.”

“Christian hospitality is the active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for persons so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Jesus Christ. They may be strangers or people we simply need to know in a deeper way.”

Putting those words together, “Practicing Radical Hospitality means we offer the absolute best of ourselves, our creativity, and our abilities to offer the gracious invitation and welcome of Christ to others. By practicing hospitality, we become part of God’s invitation to new life, showing people that God in Christ values them and loves them.” (Five Practices of Fruitful Youth Ministry, Robert Schnase and Terry B. Carty).

In short, Radical Hospitality is anything we do, in our home or at church, to make a person feel welcomed, accepted, special and valued. (repeat)

We’ve always enjoyed entertaining, more so when I was healthy. But hospitality differs from entertaining in its intent. When you entertain family or friends, (and you should), there is the possibility you may be invited back to their home. When you practice hospitality, you do so with no expectation of recompense.

Jen Wilkin explains the difference this way.

“Entertaining involves setting the perfect tablescape after an exhaustive search on Pinterest. It chooses a menu that will impress, and then frets its way through each stage of preparation. It requires every throw pillow to be in place, every cobweb to be eradicated, each child to be neat and orderly. It plans extra time to don the perfect outfit before the first guest touches the doorbell on the seasonally decorated doorstep. And should any element of the plan fall short, entertaining perceives the entire evening to have been tainted. Entertaining focuses attention on self.

Hospitality involves setting a table that makes everyone feel comfortable. It chooses a menu that allows face time with guests instead of being chained to the stovetop. It picks up the house to make things pleasant, but doesn’t feel the need to conceal evidences of everyday life. It sometimes sits down to dinner with flour in its hair. It allows the gathering to be shaped by the quality of the conversation rather than the cuisine. Hospitality shows interest in the thoughts, feelings, pursuits, and preferences of its guests. It is good at asking questions and listening intently to answers. Hospitality focuses attention on others.

Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.

Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.

Entertaining, exhausted, says “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.

Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

But the two practices can look so similar. Two people can set the same beautiful tablescape and serve the same gourmet meal, one with a motive to impress, the other with a motive to bless. How can we know the difference? Only the second would invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind to pull up a chair and sip from the stemware. Our motives are revealed not just in how we set our tables, but in who we invite to join us at the feast. Entertaining invites those whom it will enjoy. Hospitality takes all comers.”

Hospitality Verses

This time as I ask you to read them I’ll make a comment after each one or two.

11) “For I was hungry and you gave Me food: I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.” Matt.25:35

12) “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matt. 25:40b

-How we treat others is how we would treat Christ. We’re not to care for only the most popular or those with whom we have the most in common.

13) “Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”                  Deut. 10:19

13a) “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Ex, 22:21

-The precedent is related to the Exodus. They also were strangers. They should remember how it felt.

14) “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Heb.13:2

- An example of this was Abraham, but we’ll look at that shortly. The rewards of hospitality are spiritual.

-There are always blessings to the giver as well as the receiver, even when they aren’t this dramatic.

15) “Distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” Rom. 12:13

16) “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

-We do it as we have opportunity.

--Our hospitality is to include “all” people, believers and unbelievers, strangers and friends, but especially believers.

17) “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just holy, self-controlled…” Titus 1: 7, 8

-It is a characteristic of all believers, but especially those in leadership.

18) “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”    1 Pet. 4:9, 10

-We have to have a good attitude about it. The verse did say to be hospitable without grumbling. It’s easy to become resentful (like Martha of Bethany) or weary of it. I’ve been told that I’m not the most fun to be around when I’m preparing for guests. I want things to be perfect, so I get a little stressed. I get like Martha of Bethany and feel like I’m doing all the work and everyone else is sitting around.

-It is a gift given by God and is to be used to build up fellow believers.

-The idea of stewardship is that we are entrusted with something that belongs to someone else, and we need to use it wisely, as someone who must give an account. In this case, we’re stewards of our homes and finances.

19) Let us not be weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Gal. 6:9

20) “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” 1 Timothy 3:13

-Even though there’s a certain amount of exhaustion involved, there is also great reward if we persevere.

21) “…for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” Heb. 10:34

-If you’ve ever had children or teens in your home, you know that sometimes things can get broken or stained or ruined. But if we keep this perspective on our possessions, it’s easier to hold on loosely. We have a better and an enduring possession for ourselves in heaven.

22) Then He also said to him who invited Him, ‘When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’” Luke 14:12-14

This is Jesus explaining the difference between entertaining and hospitality, without using those words. He talks about the intent, and promises eternal rewards.

-I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, but the earliest example of hospitality is in the Garden of Eden. God provided a suitable dwelling place for Adam and Eve, food, fellowship with Him, and suitable companionship with each other. Even when they sinned, he provided clothing, forgiveness, and a promise.

-Another example was Abraham.

Read Genesis 18:1-8

Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.”

Sitting by the door of his tent in the afternoon, he sees three strangers draw near. He is unaware of their supreme dignity, and for this reason his welcome is a better example of hospitality. He wasn’t just trying to impress them because he knew who they were. He greets them and begs the strangers to honour him by resting under his tree and accepting a morsel of bread.

-His “morsel of bread” becomes a huge meal, “a tender and good calf, cakes, butter and milk”.

“A gentleman makes light of favours when he is doing them; he thinks he is receiving an honour when he is conferring a kindness.” Newman

“Abraham and Sarah have many servants, but they busy themselves to prepare the meal with their own hands; and when the table is spread under the green tree, he stands to wait on his guests.” (Hebrew Ideals in Genesis, James Strahan).

-In this case they were serving the Lord Himself, as well as two angels!

Other Biblical examples include Abigail, (1 Samuel 25), who brought a feast for David’s men; the Shunamite woman and her husband (2 Kings 4:8), who would regularly provide meals and a guest room for the prophet, Elisha whenever he passed by; Mary and Martha of Bethany, who often hosted Jesus and the disciples; Lydia (Acts 16:13-15), Read, who housed and provided for Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Silas and Judas; and Philemon who had a guest room set aside for the Apostle Paul.

-In Biblical times, the custom of hospitality stemmed from nomadic life where public inns were scarce and every stranger could be a potential enemy. It was offered to create trust with strangers in case the roles were reversed and the hosts found themselves travelling through the stranger’s land in need of food and care. Guests were treated with respect and honour and their animals were given provisions.

“Abraham’s is a sweet, stately, noble hospitality. Times and manners change; every age has its etiquette, and East differs from West; but courtesy and loving-kindness are the same under all guises. True welcome never consisted in meats and drinks, but in the affection of the heart. Love can make a little gift excel. The sympathy which feels for others’ need, the kindness which is happy in serving, the modesty which says little and does much, the open house and heart and mind—these are some of the elements of hospitality.” (Hebrew Ideals in Genesis, James Strahan).

Think about a time when you’ve been made to feel welcome.

Here are some of mine:

-When I was a teenager visiting friends out of town, they had the heights of their kids marked on the doorjamb. They put me up against the wall, measured me and included my name in with their family. It was a small thing, but I felt so welcomed by it, as if I was part of the family.

-When I stayed often with my cousin’s family, they added my name to the labels above the toothbrushes.

-When I went to Finland by myself when I was thirteen, I was shuffled around from relative to relative, and as they’d hand me off, they’d say, “She likes pickles and strawberries.” I thought that was a funny thing to say, but I liked that they were aware of those personal things about me and wanted to make an effort to keep me happy.

-Our first year of marriage, we lived downtown and without a car, it would take us 2 hours one way to get to church, then 2 hours back, and the same thing in the evening. Do the math: that’s 8 hours of travel time! Do you know how much we appreciated being invited for dinner Sunday afternoon to save us 4 hours of travel time?

-I remember some amazing meals. The effort that went into them made us feel special.

- Visiting a church for the first time, like when I was in Philadelphia during a conference, or here at Ajax Alliance, it means so much if someone greets you and asks where you’re from.

It’s Not Always About the Food

-When we think about hospitality, we often think of instances when someone comes into our home or church. But Jesus had no home. He offered hospitality by his graciousness to people in their own settings.

-Jesus dined with Zaccheus when everyone else rejected him, and this changed Zaccheus’ life forever (Luke 19:1-10). Read.

-As Jesus walked the countryside, He offered hospitality to everyone he met: welcoming children, visiting with tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers, sharing water with foreigners at a well. These were radical things to do in His culture.

-Sorry to say, but people will probably forget what you served them, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.

-One of the nicest compliments I ever got was when a couple said they felt very much “at home” in our house.

-While it’s nice to have a spotless house, well-behaved children, matching dishes and a five star meal, don’t let that keep you from entertaining on the spur-of-the-moment and just sharing whatever you’re eating that day, like burgers or macaroni and cheese.

Sometimes, It Is About the Food

-This isn’t a contradiction. If it’s within your means to do it, and you enjoy doing it, you can use your creativity and talent at cooking and baking to make someone feel special.

-There’s a woman I know who is legendary for her hospitality. Our first dinner at their home, she served individual Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice. It was phenomenal! Obviously it had an impact because I still remember it to this day.

-You can do dinner parties with several courses where you serve the food plated, rather than family style. A few times we’ve served a seven course meal; amuse-bouche, appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entrĂ©e, and dessert. It was fun. We’d have a theme, and dress up. We still do this with a few other couples a few times a year, alternating who is hosting and changing the theme.

-You can entertain overnight guests. You can give up your room, empty some closet space or drawer for their clothes, turn down the bedding, and put chocolates on the pillow, roses on the nightstand, light candles, and leave guest towels and a small basket of hotel size toiletries for them. Having been on the receiving end of this kind of thoughtfulness, made me want to make the effort for others, who are far from home. Another nice idea I saw on Pinterest was to have a map of the world on the wall and have your guests put a pushpin to indicate where they’ve travelled from.

-You can host special events, i.e. Teen Progressive Dinner or Christmas parties or BBQ’s.

-One thing I’ve enjoyed doing is helping to prepare lunches at WINGS with some of you. A hot meal is always appreciated there.

-If there’s one thing we do well here at Ajax Alliance Church, it’s EAT!

-You can bring hostess gifts when someone invites you to dinner, or housewarming gifts the first time you go to their home. A Finnish custom is to bring salt and bread as a housewarming gift. It’s supposed to symbolize that you hope they’ll always have the necessities in their home. I’d prefer coffee and bread, but that’s just me.

-You can re-kindle the lost art of thank-you cards. I’ve appreciated getting them. I’m not so good about sending them, though.

-You can welcome people who are new to the church, the city, or the country. You can do this with welcome baskets, or gift cards to stores, or by supplying needed furniture that you can spare, or buy new.

-You can also remember them and their children on holidays and buy them gifts that they may not be able to afford.

-Students or others far from home are always appreciative of a home-cooked meal and fellowship.

-Christmas or birthday gift boxes to missionary families that the church supports are thoughtful things to give.

-Don’t forget those who are not usually included. They may be single, or awkward socially, or not so easy to love, or even “dangerous”. We once had a man to our home who had been in jail. Our kids were young then, and I was a little nervous about it, but it went okay.

Other Points

-Even if you don’t have a home that you feel you can show hospitality in, or you feel you’re not a good cook, you can treat them to a restaurant, or sit with someone different at a dinner at church.

-Other groups are elderly and shut-ins who would appreciate a fruit basket and a visit, or those who’ve had surgery or a new baby. Also, as adults, we may not speak with children very often. Ask them about school or their hobbies. Bring treats for coffee time or to youth group.

-Make your way to strangers in church and just welcome them and ask their names and where they’re from.

-I personally find that hard to do. I’m not great with initiating small talk. It was one of the first strengths I noticed about my husband. He could draw you out and make you feel comfortable. It was his strength for my weakness. But if he introduces me to someone, I can usually take it from there. The danger is to stay in your comfort zone and gravitate to the same people all the time and huddle in your little circle.

-Think of conversations like a game of catch. If you answer in a one-word sentence, the ball drops and the conversation ends. “How are you?” “Fine.” Throw it back, ask them how they are or how their week went. Don’t drop the ball.

-We need to examine ourselves and our habits and not just accept that “that’s the way I am” or “that’s what I’ve always done”, and step out and grow and reach out to those we come in contact with, because of Jesus, Who is the source of our Radical Hospitality.

Discussions questions:

Think of a time when you’ve felt welcomed. What was it about what they did that made you feel that way?

What do you see as a personal obstacle to welcoming someone into your church or home? How can you change that?

How welcome did you feel the first time you came to Ajax Alliance Church?

Are there any groups we’re missing? How can we improve?

Do you think having an official “hospitality committee” or would that make others not in the committee feel less responsible for strangers?