Summary: A topical message, that teaches how to do what it says in the sermon title!
I remember being on a mission team in Papua New Guinea almost 20 years ago. The strange smells, the red mouths and tongues of the men, from chewing some sort of drug. The tropical warmth and humidity. The mosquitoes. The bumpy roads. The huge bats. The palm trees. I remember our team preaching the gospel in little huts and under a tree. PNG was in fact the place where I first began preaching. But most of all I remember the meals we had after the services. Food cooked in a hole in the earth. Wrapped up in banana leaves, placed on read hot stones, buried with earth to slow cook. I remember the sweet potatoes and the chicken. I remember the fresh coconuts, pineapples and sugar cane. In fact often there would be a pile of fresh fruit and vegetables about 5 foot high and 3 foot wide, given as gifts most places we went. And above all else I remember finding out towards the end of that mission that the people didn’t usually eat chicken. They were too poor for that. But everywhere we went we’d eaten chicken! In other words, everywhere we went people had gone out of their way to give us the best. I began to eat that chicken more appreciatively.
In India I remember a destitute widow serving us her last cup on rice, and insisting we eat it. A local believer pointed out to us quietly that she had no other food or money left.
In South Korea I remember the constant invitations to dine out with the Korean believers. We were ministering in many churches. But the Korean Christians were feeding us up and sending us home with bags full of presents.
And I could tell you a hundred stories about the Muslims we met on our travels, who opened their homes, fed us, protected and hosted us.
I’m grateful for what God is teaching me about hospitality. But I still have a long, long way to go. I’ll be honest and say that we as British people have got a long way to go. Things have changed. We’ve become a nation of individualists who tend not to find communal living very natural any more. This is a cultural characteristic we must be aware of. On certain points the values of the kingdom of God are radically different to the values of the United Kingdom!
Reading: Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is not just a psalm about the Lord my Shepherd. But it is also a psalm about the Lord my Host. About an hospitable God. A God who invites us in. Who prepares a feast for us. A safe place. A God who invites us into his house forever! To join in the feast with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is not for nothing that the Bible urges God’s people to practice hospitality. All theology flows from and starts with who God is. And God is a welcoming God. A host.
So our topic tonight is Hospitality. Our title: Practising Hospitality.
First, I would like us to define that word and look at where it is found in the New Testament. Then I’d like us to see what hospitality might practically mean for us as a church.
I bring this word to us this evening because I believe,
There is no church without hospitality