Below you'll find our message, discussion questions, as well as a commercial that I played during the message, and a copy of the song that our worship leader sang right before our discussion. We took a look at hospitality and it's connection with the life of a missionary/missional church plant. So I would love to hear how you are extending hospitality into your world.
So today we come to the end of the second part of our series “How to be a missionary without ever leaving Lancaster.” Over the last two months we have covered two stages of being a missionary/planting a missional church.
In June we covered the first stage, that of Engaging the Culture. We talked about blessing people, seeking the peace of the city, realizing that we are sent as Jesus was sent, that we can’t do it without the power of the Holy Spirit, that we are called to use our eyes, and ears before we engage (as we did by walking around the city and praying) and then going out and actually serving people within Lancaster city. (September 29 we’ll be serving alongside City Gate again. Just an FYI)
Then in the month of July we have been covering the second stage, that of Forming Community. We have talked about the early church, their communal life together, the fact that we can’t do it alone- we were actually designed to live communal lives, and that the early followers of Jesus understood community, property, everything as flowing from God, into them, and out of them. And so we are going to wrap up today talking about another important element in a missionaries life, as well as in the life of a missional church. That of Hospitality. We’ll be spending some time today talking about what hospitality is, the importance of it from an eastern culture mindset, and how hospitality plays into the life of a missionary and a missional community.
This concept of Hospitality is one that is all over the place in our world, and one that I believe the world is stealing our best lines, and frankly, sometimes doing a better job of it than the church. Take this video as a case in point.
Did you catch the only words in the entire commercial? “There's no greater act of hospitality than to embrace a stranger as one's own”. That is a line that should have come from us, and it does, but here it is promoting a Hotel Chain. These words fit beautifully in our Scripture texts for the morning as we look at the great act of hospitality and embracing a stranger as one’s own. The two Scriptures that we’ll look at together are Hebrews 13:1-2, and 1 Peter 4:9.
Hebrews 13:1-2 says, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” So let’s start with this text. The first thing the author of the book of Hebrews says is that we need to keep loving one another as brothers and sisters. He places the root of hospitality in 2 places, in love and in seeing each other as brother and sister. I mentioned several times this month the question of “What if we saw each person we met as a brother, sister, mother, father, etc.. How would it change the way we interact with everyone we meet? How would it drive us into mission and blessing? And what role would hospitality then play when we saw people as brothers and sisters?” The author even uses the word philo (there are 4 different words used for love in the NT) when he says loving one another. Philo is brotherly friendship and affection. It is the love of deep friendship and partnership. There should always be plenty of this kind of love among Christians.
In fact, the Greek word for hospitality that is used is the New Testament is philoxenia which literally translates love for strangers. To be about the work of hospitality, at it’s root, is about love. Love of the stranger. Each time we are commanded to practice hospitality, God is literally commanding us to have and show love for others. And when we show hospitality and love for people, in a very real way we are showing love to Jesus. Just look at verse 2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” It also reminds me of the parable of the Sheep and the Goats found in Matthew 25:31-46 in which the story is told that at the end of time God separates people into what he calls sheep and goats. The sheep are commended because they fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visited the sick, and those in prison. And in the text Jesus identifies himself as the one that was fed, clothed, thirsty quenched, and visited. He identified himself and identifies himself with the poor. And the amazing thing is that the sheep, who had done all these things, had not idea that in a very real way, when they were doing all these things to the least of them, that they were actually doing it for Jesus. And the goats were the opposite. They didn’t fed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visit the sick and in prison and therefore since they didn’t do these things, they didn’t do them to Jesus. Hospitality shown to the stranger, is hospitality to Jesus.
Hospitality is an important virtue, both in the ancient world and in ours as well. It is commanded of Christians all throughout the Scriptures, like 1 Peter 4:9 which says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” You see the early church and the early Christians understood the importance of hospitality. They were known for their radical hospitality. Just think about our discussions last week when we looked at Acts 4:32-35. What we talked about last week connects in a very real way to our conversation this week about hospitality. Hospitality was one of the early Christians trademarks. It was so crucial and distinctive to the early Christians and early Church that a first century church manual called the Didache prescribed detailed regulations for the reception and accommodation of traveling Christians, especially clergy. Hospitality as vital to the growth, stability and daily life of the early church. So you see that hospitality was a very crucial part of the life of a disciple of Jesus. You see if you were traveling, it wasn’t like you could just pull into the local micro tel suites and get a room. In the ancient world, motels, where they did exist were notorious for being places of immorality. So it was imperative for traveling Christians to find open homes from other Christians. This was a simple and practical way to let brotherly and sisterly love continue.
So if hospitality means love of stranger, and the early church and Christians lived it out in such a way that it became a trademark that they were known by, where is the American church in this regard? How are we doing in the area of hospitality? Unfortunately, I believe biblical hospitality isn’t a high priority for most modern western Churches. Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today. What would happen if the western church sought to reclaim the Christian virtue of hospitality? What would happen if the church was again known for the distinctive mark of hospitality? What about us at Veritas? What would we need to do to be known for being a people and a place of hospitality? What would happen if we took the New Testament call to show hospitality seriously? How would Jesus show up in that work? Here is what I believe when it comes to hospitality and what would happen if we reclaimed hospitality as a mark of a follower of Jesus. Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the Kingdom of God. If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating.
So let’s unpack what it might mean for you and I to live a life of missional hospitality. Let’s talk about the connection between this week and last. Let’s talk about what we might do together as Veritas to be a people and a place of hospitality. And let’s see what God is saying to us as individuals and as a community about missional hospitality.
Discussion Questions: 1. Share a time in which you were the one who extended community. What happened, how did it impact the person, and how did it ultimately impact you? 2. How might a lifestyle of Hospitality connect with our conversation from last week? 3. What might we do as a community, to reclaim hospitality as our trademark and not be the trademark of a hotel chain? How might you and I live out a lifestyle of Hospitality? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?