Summary: A sermon on the importance of practicing hospitality within the community of faith.
It’s movie trivia time. This movie is old but some of you are old, so you should know the answer. In 1974, does anybody remember the movie Young Frankenstein? That movie is 40 years old. It is a comedy about Dr. Frankenstein and his monster starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, and Peter Boyle, who is also known as Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. Since you all showed up today, I thought I would do you a favor and show you a movie clip from Young Frankenstein not only because I need to fill some time into my sermon, I was a little bit short today, but because it is one of my favorite movie clips and actually it gives a nice example of the dangers when you offer hospitality to a stranger. So go ahead and watch this clip. [Blind Priest Scene from Young Frankenstein]
Hopefully, you see the risk of offering hospitality to strangers, especially if you are the stranger in this case. Today, we continue to look at our core values of worship, discipleship, outreach, and community. Today, we are back focusing on this value of community. When we speak of community we are talking this community called church. When we speak about the church, we are talking about an authentic community. Today, we are talking about one of the characteristics of an authentic community is a community that is characterized by hospitality. If you have been here for a while, you will know that about seven years ago I actually preached on the value of hospitality. I actually did three sermons on the value of hospitality. One of the outcomes of that was what we call the “moments of hospitality”, which all of you just experienced where you get up and shake hands and introduce yourself and that sort of thing. But I was thinking, since Easter week is approaching very rapidly, that it would be good to revisit this idea of hospitality because we are going to experience probably a visitor or two.
When you think about the word hospitality, I imagine that a lot of different things come to mind. I imagine that some people think about maybe dinner out in a fine dining restaurant, possibly going out on a cruise or something like that, possibly dinner with friends, or maybe even a Martha Stewart type experience, you know a five-course meal, or maybe just having somebody over for pizza and watching a Penguins game. Although those are all good examples of hospitality, really they all fall short of what we call the Biblical view of hospitality. The Biblical view of hospitality is really quite simple. In its simplest definition it basically means kindness of strangers or welcoming strangers. Specifically what it means is the love of stranger. The word that we translate hospitality in the New Testament actually comes from a Greek word called Phileoxenia. I think that is the right way to pronounce it but I’m not sure, but you don’t know either so that’s fine. Anyway, Phileoxenia actually means Love of Strangers. Phileo basically means like brotherly love. It is where we get the name Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And Xenia basically means stranger. So the word together means “love of strangers”. Again, that is what we would translate as the word hospitality.
Today, we are going to consider this idea of hospitality. I know that this idea of love of strangers may seem a bit alien to us, especially if we are used to the modern term hospitality. Although it is alien to us, it likely was not alien to the people of God. Specifically the Jewish people and even the Christian people. I don’t have time to get into all the Bible passages, especially the Old Testament, but in the Old Testament the Jewish people were expected to be welcoming, to be hospitable to strangers. The main reason is that they spent a good portion of their history as strangers, as exiles in a foreign land, specifically during the time that they were in Egypt. If we look back at Leviticus 19:34 it says “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34) The Jewish people were expected to be welcoming to strangers because they were strangers in a foreign land. Really back in that time and especially the early centuries, all civilizations, or all people that would be considered civilized, were known to practice this idea of hospitality, especially the Greek people. The Greek people were really into this idea of hospitality. They got it down to a science. But like anything else, the idea of hospitality would tend to be abused. In their mind, hospitality was kind of an even exchange. If you invited somebody over to dinner, then you expect that that person would invite you over to dinner. It was often an exchange between close family and friends and people of influence. If you could not reciprocate, if you could not pay that person back, well then you are pretty much off the list.