Summary: In our series on Stewardship we focused on many issues, one of them being hospitality and its role in the life of the church. God is a hospitable God and in our imitation of him it makes logical sense to include hospitality in our personal ministries.
As we conclude our series on Stewardship we want to look at one final aspect of managing the good gifts God has given to us. Hospitality is an important part of ministering to others with what we have.
If you watch Corner Gas, Canada’s only homegrown successful sit-com, you know how the characters feel about Woolerton. Corner Gas is set in the fictional town of Dog River, named so because a farmer once drowned his dog in the river. The neighboring and rival community of Woolerton causes such disgust in the mouths of the Dog River residents that they all collectively spit whenever the name “Woolerton” is mentioned.
Who knows what causes such a bitter response to the mention of this town? Though it may not be unlike how Kleefelders feel about Grunthal or New Bothwell. I remember how some of the long time residents of Kleefeld spoke of these rival towns and nearly spit the names. What causes such unhappy memories in Dog River and Kleefeld hearts?
My theory is that an individual in one of these rival towns was inhospitable to a visitor from Dog River and left a sour impression. One person acted rudely or answered sarcastically and left an impression that this town was full of such people. One person representing the entire town treated the visitor, not like a guest, but like an interloper, an unwanted and intrusive busybody. And that was enough to leave a bad name on the whole community. Woolerton (spit); Grunthal (spit); New Bothwell (spit).
Hospitality makes all the difference. It can soften the heart, refresh the guest after a weary trip, and restore joy to the unappreciated and so much more. Is there a theological foundation for the practice of hospitality? Of course, the Bible even speaks of hospitality as a major gift of the Spirit.
Within the story Jesus tells of the Friend at Midnight we see a powerful example and model of hospitality.
1. Can you imagine…
We want to focus on the four verses in the middle of our passage this morning. Luke 11:5-8 is the story of a friend who comes at midnight requesting bread for his surprise guest. Let’s look at the important elements of this story.
Jesus begins his story by saying, “Suppose one of you has a friend…” (v. 5). This is an interesting opener which suggests that it is a hypothetical story; it’s not true but is intended to provoke a certain reaction.
The same Greek phrasing is used elsewhere in the Gospel of Luke. In 14:5, Jesus says, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” Again in 15:4 Jesus says, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
In all three stories there is a similar response expected from the listening audience. The latter two stories could be translated as “Can any one among you imagine a son falling in the well and not immediately pulling him up on the Sabbath day?” And “Can any one among you imagine having a hundred sheep and having lost one of them, not leaving the ninety-nine in the wilderness and going after the one that is lost?’
So here we must also have this in mind: “Can you imagine having a friend and going to him with the sacred request to help you entertain a guest, and then he offers silly excuses about sleeping children and barred doors?” And the answer is the same in every case: NO!! The Middle Eastern listener would react with shock and knowing his responsibility to be hospitable answer “No I cannot imagine it.”
It is unthinkable to refuse anyone hospitality in the Palestinian mindset. People of the Middle East are legendary for their ability to show hospitality in any situation. In fact, the excuses that the sleeper gives are so ridiculous they would have made Jesus’ audience laugh. Big deal! The bar on the door isn’t that heavy. Big deal! The children will fall back to sleep again.
So when Jesus asks if they can imagine a situation like this we must understand that to refuse hospitality in this context is unthinkable.
2. The Request
The situation is unusual but not improbable. A friend arrives at midnight and the custom is to feed him whether he is hungry or not. But there is no food in the house, we assume. So “…he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (v. 5-6).