The Stranger is the Gift
I. Stranger in Midst
A. Friend – some years ago
B. Sunday worship service, church like ours
C. Service begun – member of congregation began worship, no pastor yet
D. Man dressed shabbily in a heavy overcoat and wild hair and who could of used a bath came into service
1. Trouble finding a seat, pretty packed toward back – is that like this church
2. Finally a member, a prominent business man in the community offered to help the man
3. He asked him to sit with him and family
a. got him a bulletin
b. found a hymnal for him
c. helped him find place in bulletin
E. Of course the congregation was murmuring about man
1. some where heard to say, “Doesn’t he know how to dress for church?”
2. Others sitting close by holding their noses
3. Parents were trying to stop their children from staring and giggling
F. The businessman had to help man stand when the hymn began, the man did not sing
G. The congregation was getting nervous because the pastor was still not present and soon it would be time for the sermon, the member leading
worship was sweating,No scripture was even listed in the bulletin
H. Think how you would be feeling if Pastor Ed or myself were not present for worship –
Maybe it would be answer to your prayers for a short sermon
I. Anyways, back to friend’s church
1. When it came time for the scripture and sermon, the stranger stood up and said, “The Lord wants me to tell you something today.”
2. Heads jerked, several started to say something
J. The stranger walked to front of the church and started unbutton his coat.
1. There was gleaming white road underneath that old tattered coat
2. Then the man pulled off his long unkempt wig.
K. It was my friend – their pastor
L. And he said, “The word from the Lord today is this ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
1. He called for the last hymn and sat down, leaving the coat and wig in the middle of the floor.
2. I don’t if that ever changed that congregation but certainly made them think
II. Scripture – Hebrews & Genesis
A. Seriously, the author of Hebrews is giving a series of exhortations, that is instructions
B. The author is making points before the book concludes
C. He expects members of the Christian community “to show hospitality to strangers” – People that are not family or friends
D. This exhortation reminds of the story about Abraham welcoming strangers
into his camp
1. Let me remind you of this story
2. Abraham is resting by his tent
3. He sees several strangers approaching his camp
4. He hurries to them and bows to them and says “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought…let me bring a little bread.
5. He does not know who they are, he does not check his larder to see if there is enough
6. He simply welcomes them and is hospitable to them
E. Abraham was open to them and to God in that act
F. The messengers of God, the angels, brought him and Sarah a message
G. A message that changed their lives forever
1. Baby - Isaac
H. Sometimes our lives are changed when we are welcoming of strangers
I. Let me tell you a story about hospitality
III. 9 / 11
A. Let me tell you about a whole town that epitomized this scripture
B.. Gander, Canada
1. population 9,600
2. smack dab in the middle of Newfoundland
3. Canada’s eastern most province along the Atlantic
4. it had a community center, an aviation museum, 4 city parks, and the Gander Mall
5. average town for most of history
C. That is until September 11, 2001.
D. That day 52 trans-Atlantic flights were redirected to the Gander International Airport
E. Many passengers spent that night on their planes
F. The next morning a convoy of buses took the passengers to the terminal
1. People were told to relax and the would be notified when their flights would be redirected
2. That call came 2 days later
G. This is what I am to tell you about – those 2 days
H. This community and surrounding area showed great hospitality to strangers
1. All the high schools in the area, meeting halls, lodges, churches became places to house people
a. some had cots, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows
2. All elderly passengers were given no choice – they stayed in private homes
3. Families were kept together
4. At least one pregnant woman was housed in a private home across from a 24-hour Urgent care
5. All high school students were required to volunteer some where.
6. Phone calls and emails were available when requested
7. During the day, passengers were given excursion trips on boat trips or to see local forests
8. Local bakeries made fresh bread for the “guests”
9. Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the “guests” or were taken to local restaurants
10. They were given tokens to the Laundromats
11. One flight attendant put it this way, “Passengers were crying while telling their stories. It was absolutely incredible, when passengers came on board after their stay in Gander it was like they were on a cruise.”
I. Sidelight – over $40,000 was collected on just one plane to fund scholarships for the high school students
J. Why, tell you this?
K. Because some people in a far away place were kind to some strangers, who happened to drop in on them, literally.
L. WHY NOT?
M. If you’re looking for a good definition of hospitality, I think you have just heard one.
N. I guarantee the residents of Gander and surrounding area were changed because of their hospitality
IV. Concluding thoughts
A. Paul says, “Be hospitable to strangers without grumbling”
1. He is being kind of stern here, but so was the writer of Hebrews.
2. the Greek word for hospitality is a combination of 2 words – 1 is “be kind” and the other is “strangers”
3. It is kindness to those you do not know and those who do not know God.
B. Would people say that this church is a haven for guests?
1. In the Amplified Bible, gives a expanded meaning of the text
2. I Peter 4:9 goes like this: “Practice hospitality to one another that is those of the household of faith. Be hospitable, that is be a lover of strangers with brotherly affection for unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body. And in each instance do it ungrudgingly, cordially and graciously without complaining, but as representing Him.”
C. Remember Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least these , you did for me.” (Matt. 25: 40)
D. When we show hospitality to those outside of our family and friends we are entertaining not only angels (possibly) but we are entertaining Christ himself.
E. In preparing for this sermon I Googled the word “hospitality” and all the entries I got were for job opportunities in the hotel industry. F. Well, wouldn’t it be great if our guests felt like they were treated with such care that they thought they were at a resort? G. Today, perfect day to start 1. Today we are celebrating holy communion 2. A place where all are guests at God’s table 3. So I invite you all to God’s table and may you all feel welcomed 4. Where you may be changed 5. Because you have been so welcomed then you can welcome others 6. And who knows you might even entertain an angel or two that mightchange your live forever. Gander, Canada illustration ;“Christian Hospitality”, Aaron Kilbourn, September 11, 2008; www.sermoncentral.com
F. Well, wouldn’t it be great if our guests felt like they were treated with such care that they thought they were at a resort?
G. Today, perfect day to start
1. Today we are celebrating holy communion
2. A place where all are guests at God’s table
3. So I invite you all to God’s table and may you all feel welcomed
4. Where you may be changed
5. Because you have been so welcomed then you can welcome others
6. And who knows you might even entertain an angel or two that mightchange your live forever.
Gander, Canada illustration ;“Christian Hospitality”, Aaron Kilbourn, September 11, 2008; www.sermoncentral.com