The Most Radical Spiritual Gift

spiritualgift.pngI think that in today’s day and age there is one really needed and really radical spiritual gift. It’s not seen in a lot of places and it’s certainly undervalued in most places. And, it’s just this…hospitality.

Hospitality is the gift of opening up a space so that others feel safe, loved and valued. Read that sentence again. Because, isn’t that what our world needs? Isn’t that what our family, friends, neighbours and co-workers need? A safe place to feel loved and valued.

The gift of hospitality is used when we really welcome people into our lives without any preconditions or expectations. We simply welcome. And, I think if we want to change lives with Jesus, it begins with learning this gift and this art. Opening up our lives, homes and hearts to others with no expectations other than giving them a place to feel loved and valued.

To do this, though, is really difficult because it first requires us to be centred and whole in our own identities. If not, we try to make people into what we think they should be, rather than loving who they are. And, no one likes being changed.

Henri Nouwen puts it this way: “True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”

So, how do we practice this really radical gift of hospitality? Well, I think the first step is to actually welcome the hospitality that Jesus has for us. Because He welcomes us as we are, and loves us right there and then. So, for some of us, before we take the step of opening up our hearts and homes to others (which we absolutely need to do!), perhaps the step for today is to just remind yourself that you are loved by God exactly as you are. He actually likes you, loves you and wants to be with you.

And, once this starts to shape who you are, you’ll be able to share that love with others. Once you accept that you are accepted by God, you can start accepting and loving others.

Of course, we all have unhealthy areas in our lives that need to change. I’m not saying those don’t exist. I’m saying that people want to be loved firstand that love changes people, not our judgment.

So, today, practice the radical gift of hospitality by welcoming someone in as they are or by allowing Jesus to welcome you as you are. Because that’s what our world needs and what I know I need.

Hudson and His Church Antics, and Church Love

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Today we were talking about Jesus as Hudson and I drove to daycare. At one point Hudson just blurts out “Daddy I really love Jesus, because I love going to church.” For Hudson the connection he has with our church, has positively influenced his connection with Jesus. And I know for many people out there, the church hasn’t been helpful with people connecting with Jesus. For some they like Jesus, but not the church. But that’s why I love my church so much, because it is showing and helping Hudson to fall in love with the Jesus I know.

So my first thought to Hudson’s little statement was this. Thank you. Thank you to all those in our church who continue to pour into our kids. Thank you for all those who welcome kids and make them feel safe and supported. Thank you for all those who continue to love not only my sons but all those around you.

  • Thank you that when he runs down the aisle yelling that he has to pee, you smile and say “run fast little guy”.
  • Thank you for how when we were potty training, and at the front of the church he pulled down his pants to show off his new “big boy” underwear – you all cheered.
  • Thank you for how you watch my boys on Sundays so I can connect with others, and I always know he is safe and cared for.
  • And yes last but not least, I will even say thank you to all of you (which is most of you) who love to give my boys as many cookies and treats as possible before we go home. Because your generosity has Hudson hooked on church, and Jesus.

So thank you. And for all of you who don’t go to my church, thank you if you do the same in your community. If you welcome and care and reach out. Because those little actions, high fives, and hugs change lives. I know they’ve changed Hudson’s and because of that – they are changing mine too. Thank you.

Long Days…And Gifts of Grace

1249444_83938048This week I had a long day…I mean a really long day. Sometimes this happens. The day started out with nothing planned. But by the end of it I had met with upwards of 15 people, with 5 groups of people being in major crisis or really important decisions being made. Also, I’m an introvert which means I had really hit my quota of conversations for the day. I didn’t get home till it was well after dark and supper, and even then had a pile of emails and critical phone calls to return.

Have you ever had a day like this? A day that jumps out of nowhere. A day you didn’t plan for, and a day that just seems to keep going? Have you ever had God show up on a day like this? Were you looking for him in the midst of it?

Because here is the thing – this day was important. Every one of the meetings, prayers, and conversations was critical. There was nothing wasted in it, but it was long, it was tiring, and as I drove into my driveway, knowing it wasn’t even close to being finished, I was drained. On top of that I know that my wife had a long difficult day with the boys.

And as I get out of the car in the rain, and feeling drained, my neighbour walks up to me and says, “I hear you’ve had a really tough and long day. I’m here to watch your kids so your wife can have a break, and you can finish what you need to.”

How beautiful and amazing is that?

And I know the question you’re all asking, and the answer is “no”. No I’m not moving and you can’t have my neighbours. But it just reminded me of the beauty of community, of friends, of family. This is the type of community we dream of having, neighbourhoods we want to live in, and friends we want to have. So rather than dreaming about it, why not start to create it? Why not be the neighbour who shows up with help. The friend who gives when the day has been long.

Because I can tell you – it changed my night. It was still a long day, but I saw God all through it, especially in the help from my neighbour. So why not be that type of neighbour, the one who blesses and changes lives. Because I can tell you from personal experience – those types of neighbours matter.

Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Invitations : The gift of Hospitality

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday we explored the most important spiritual gift there is: hospitality. I think that this is probably the most important gift there is in the church today. Today in North America the church is known for all sorts of things that aren’t good. We’re known for being judgmental, closed, and all about money. What I think though we need to be known for is how we open our lives, our homes, and our living rooms to anyone. We need to be known for how we are open and welcoming, offering friendship with no pretext other than love.

Jesus, in Matthew 25, gives a really clear command to give food, friendship, water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, and welcome to everyone. This is to mark our lives as Christians.

John Wesley, preaching on this passage, had someone ask him what good is it if we do those things and they go to “everlasting fire”. Wesley’s response is both so challenging and convicting he says “Whether they will finally be lost or saved is not up to us.” He says though,  “You are expressly commanded to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. If you can, and do not, whatever becomes of them, you shall go away into everlasting fire”. Strong response isn’t it? It’s strong because it’s true. We, as Christians, cannot make excuses for us not opening our lives without pretext to those around us.

Long before anyone will come to my church with me, they will have entered my house. Long before they have ever listened to me share on a Sunday, I will have listened to them share countless times in my kitchen. The point is that as Christians we are called to open our lives and welcome others.

So we ended with this challenge which is pretty clear: invite people into your home. Invite neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers. Simply practice welcome, leave aside any pretext, and simply love and care. This is our calling and this is what we should be known for again. Because this is what Jesus does for us. He welcomes us, so we need to welcome others as well.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Hospitality needs to be practiced

Take Aways…

  • We gather to meet with Jesus, to be changed by Jesus, and to be sent out to change lives with Jesus
  • Hospitality changes lives
  • “Hospitality meant extending to strangers a quality of kindness usually reserved for friends and family” Christine Pohl, Making Room
  • “Soap boxes and pulpits are not nearly as important as kitchen tables and couches” Christine Pohl
  • We need to become people who know how to welcome others.
  • Start opening up your home and your life to others
  • Whether they will finally be lost or saved is not up to us.” He says though “You are expressly commanded to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. If you can, and do not, whatever becomes of them, you shall go away into everlasting fire” John Wesley
  • People view hospitality as quaint and tame partly because they do not understand the power of recognition. When a person who is not valued by society is received by someone as a human being with dignity and worth, small transformations occur” Christine Pohl
  • We shall have to break our habit of having church in such a way that people are deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and remain strangers. Will Willimon, Stanley Hauerwas

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

How has someone opening up their home or life to you changed you? Are there people you should be opening up your life too? Have you ever thought about Matthew 25, as a command to open your home to others? What are your thoughts about it? How might you start to practice hospitality in your life more frequently? Who can help you to put these things into practice? When will you invite neighbors, co-workers, family, or friends over?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about the importance of welcome, of hospitality, and opening up your lives to others. Ask them who they think they should welcome from their school, or neighborhood. Why not invite them over along with their parents and practice hospitality as a family.

Challenge for this Week: Invite someone to your house next Sunday, and invite a neighbor over in this month.

Homes, Hospitality, and Why Finding Jesus Often Begins Around a Table

540136_22497473Earlier this week I heard a really great story, of how people came out to our church, connected, and had God speak to them. It was very moving to hear about how God was working in their lives, and it got me really excited.

This is wonderful and beautiful, and there is something powerful that happens when the church gathers together. And it’s my honest hope that whenever we gather together as a community that life change happens, that people experience God, and that new life is found. But here is the interesting thing this life change for these people didn’t begin in our church, it began in a home.

You see long before these people were ever invited to church, they were invited into a home of someone a part of our church. Long before they ever crossed the door into our church building, they were welcomed into a home many times. Long before they ever heard me share on grace and life, they saw a friend demonstrate grace and life to them.

So the point is that if we want to see life change, the church is important, but let us not forget about our homes. Because I believe that change often starts in the home with hospitality. When people, as the church, practice hospitality it sparks transformation. When we invite friends, neighbors, and co-workers into our circles sharing grace, trust and hope, this is where life change begins. I absolutely believe we all need to be connected to a local community. I just know it often begins with being connected around a table, a meal, and a cup of coffee first.

So invite people to join in your church. Invite people to join with Jesus in what he is doing. Just don’t forget one of the first steps…to invite them over to your house first.

Halloween, Hospitality, and the Theological Significance of Front Doors

Did you know what some of the first Christians we’re most know for? Radical hospitality.

This is something I think we should recapture. Because this is my honest belief: that the front door of our homes can invite and welcome people into the heart of the church. That when we invite and welcome people into our homes, and lives we are inviting people into the heart of the church. Because the church isn’t a building, it is a people. So when we as Christians, part of the body of Christ, practice radical hospitality we are not just inviting people into our homes but inviting people to experience church, Jesus, and God’s kingdom. This is a beautiful thing because I’ve found before people ever cross the doors of the church building where I work, they have often crossed my front door. Before they ever gather to sit and hear God’s story on a Sunday, they have sat on my couch and I’ve heard their story.

So how does this matter on Halloween?

Simple because people are coming to your front door, which can become a doorway to the heart of the church.

So this Halloween practice great hospitality, give out great candy, be warm, be friendly, be giving and generous because the next time a neighbor comes to your front door they might just cross it and eventually become part of the church.

So practice radical hospitality and who knows where it might lead…but my theological guess is it will lead to Jesus…

Soap Boxes, Couches, and Stories

A friend of mine, Pernell Goodyear, was talking at our denomination’s regional gathering. I was recently going through my notes and really resonated with what he shared. He was talking about evangelism, as inviting people into our lives and walking with others. In his talk he said this:

“Soap boxes and pulpits are not nearly as important as kitchen tables and couches.”

This point really hit me quite hard. His point was simple. Evangelism happens best in the context of hospitality and friendship. Inviting people into your life to see how you live, to ask questions, and to live with you is the starting point. We need to be less concerned with getting our message out there, and more concerned with getting our “lives” out there. To actually connect with people, from friendships, and not only speak the message of grace, but to live it out.

Pernell’s point isn’t to invite someone into your home to “evangelize” or “convert” them. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus entered people’s homes to hear their stories, to enter into their lives with grace. He entered their homes so that their lives became a part of his story. And we need to follow the same example, practicing radical hospitality with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers, letting their stories intermingle with ours, to see what God might do with the convergence.

So how do we practice this? Well, that’s the easy part, you start opening up your home, inviting neighbors in, inviting friends in, and welcoming others. Start listening to other people’s stories and seeking to discover how Jesus has been active in their lives, because he is. Jesus is already at work all over the world. We need to start joining him in that work by welcoming people into our homes, and starting to share our story, and listen to others…