What does Christian hospitality really look like?
While preparing for a sermon a couple weeks ago, I came across the sermon I delivered on June 26, 2011 – the last Sunday of my first year in appointment to the Hampton-Varnville Charge.
The message that Sunday examined Matthew 10:40-42 in consideration of the relationship between our churches’ vision to Christian hospitality.
I revisited the sermon from June 26, 2011 on July 2, 2017, which marks the first Sunday in a new appointment year! The message, You’re Welcome (II), does not drift too far from the point of the original message: emphasizing a vision towards Christian hospitality as a humble response to God’s blessings upon our community of faith.
However, our reading of Matthew 10:40-42 is particularly interesting. While the message is certainly directed at a Hampton-Varnville audience, the interpretation of might exercise the minds of anyone with a curiosity towards the nature of Christian hospitality.
Here is a brief summary:
Matthew 10:40-42 is part of a much larger conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus authorizes his disciples to carry his message of the kingdom (as apostles) to the neighboring towns and villages. The message of Jesus is not only to be spoken, but to be demonstrated through deeds of power.
Christian hospitality is often conveyed as a willingness to receive “others” – to have open hearts, open minds, and open doors as our great UMC advertises.
However, Jesus offers a different point of view in these three verses of Matthew, which pushes his followers to move well beyond “openness.” Having already addressed the possible rejection the disciples may encounter in their mission, Jesus declares, “Whoever welcomes you welcome me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (10:40) Jesus does not emphasize an expectation for the disciples to be open to receiving others; rather, Jesus cast “others” in the role of the welcomer. Others are the one expected to be open to receiving…namely, the disciples and the message they carry! The disciples, therefore, are the ones to be welcomed.
By implication, therefore, the follower of Jesus is more than an open recipient of other people! No, the follower of Jesus is to humbly approach others with the message of Jesus – a message of God’s grace, mercy, and love!! The follower of Jesus is to approach others with the message of the kingdom, which calls for repentance so others might live a full life in the presence of the Almighty!
Christian hospitality certainly assumes an openness to the reception of others! But, Christian hospitality is more than passive receptivity. Christian hospitality embraces a willingness to humbly (and respectfully) approach others with the message of Jesus. Christian hospitality is a willingness to go to others and to offer oneself as a witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Welcoming a stranger in the pew is a good thing, but Christian hospitality asks more of us…
We must go beyond the pew into the dark places of our world, the forgotten places, the broken places and offer ourselves in the name of Jesus as a witness to the grace, mercy, and love of God!!!
Check out You’re Welcome (II) if you would like to hear the message!