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.

A Challenge from the Past: Giving, Wealth, Hospitality, and John Wesley

My dad was first a pastor in the Free Methodist Church of Canada. Coming from that background I’ve always appreciated the writing and person of John Wesley.

Recently, while reading some of his stuff, I came across a few quotes from him that I found really challenging. So if you don’t feel like being challenged too, maybe just skip the rest of the blog post.

Wesley wrote this:

“One great reason why the rich in general have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them…The distance that wealthy people are now able to put between them and the poor makes them less likely to appreciate the need for hospitality.”

Wow how true is that? One great reason why those who are rich have so little sympathy for the poor is because they so seldom visit them. That just hits home, because I know I am rich. While I’m not rich in North American terms I am incredibly rich in light of the rest of the world. This quote made think about my sympathy for others who are struggling in my neighborhood and in Africa. It made me think about whether or not I’m willing to open my house, my life, and my world to those who need comfort and true welcome. It made me think about whether I am too isolated and insulated from those with true needs. In general, it made me think a lot. But I don’t think that’s the point.

I don’t think Wesley wrote it so I would think deep thoughts. I think he wrote it so I might take action. So that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to try to act on my convictions and go from there. Maybe if that quote got you to thinking, you should see if it can’t move you to acting as well…