The Power of Hospitality
Series: The Art of Neighboring
Brad Bailey – November 10th, 2013
Last week we began a new series for this month we’re calling “Rediscovering the Art of Neighboring”
As we recalled last week... Jesus says that the whole law of God could best be summarized by two great commands
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"Do this and you will live."
This is what we are to wrap our souls around...these two facets of life. As we consider the second....that of loving our neighbors...we are asking ourselves....what if we actually sought to follow the great command of Jesus to love our neighbors… our actual real neighbors?
> That challenge naturally begins with getting to know them.
So last week includes doing a little inventory using this neighborhood block map...in which the center block represents where you live...and the 8 blocks around it represent 8 of the neighbors that live closest to us.
As we consider loving our neighbors... we can begin with asking how well we know them by considering three things...first, their names...second, something you know about them from a conversation...and thirdly, do we know one of their greatest hopes, dreams, or fears.
> This captures the challenge we want to share as a community:
to begin to get to know our neighbors over the next few weeks...to take some steps towards knowing their names and more about them.
This is a challenge that I have felt stirred by myself. Leah and I have been challenged and stirred to break out of the limitations we seem to have become settled in. Recently I discovered through one neighbor that my neighbor just two doors down had cancer. A week later I saw chairs for a big party set up in their backyard…and my heart thought of Donna and Jay celebrating what might be a last anniversary party together. I discovered it was the reception following his funeral. The Lord stirred this calling to love my actual neighbors.
So last week began a call to begin to connect with those who actually live closest to you.
TESTIMONY: Laura Abbot
> Laura didn’t have an elaborate plan…she had a sincere prayer….an made some space. That is a prayer I would invite every one of us to take up.
The paradox of modern urban culture re connection; we have more means to connect yet people feel more estranged from those who are closest to us.
When it comes to where we really live….the place most people use to feel they belong…we feel a growing separation… and estrangement. There is a subtle underlying distrust…fear and separation.
God has an antidote to our separation. It’s called hospitality.
In our contemporary usage of the word "hospitality"… we may simply think of those who throw good parties....where the setting is elaborate and the food is amazing.
While that can reflect something about hospitality…but when we consider the life of Jesus… the centrality of gatherings… many of which were meals... let me ask us:
What was more powerful and prophetic in the way Jesus lived and shared life with others… the menu or the guest list?
(What was really significant in the way Jesus joined with others… the menu or the guest list?)
As we engage his choices… and the reactions… it becomes profound how significant was his choice of who was being joined together like family. > It is this that is at the root of hospitality.
Jesus used homes and meals to define and declare where God actually was… eating meals with peasants and prostitutes…which in early Jewish culture was the ultimate expression of fellowship…. and his choices were in such sharp contrast to the religious leaders.
Luke 5:27-29 (MSG)
Jesus went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, "Come along with me." And he did—walked away from everything and went with him. Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner.
This offended the religious leaders...because they knew that accepting an invitation to someone's home...and sharing in a meal implied they could be included in one's life.
Hospitality has the power to DEFINE relationship.
Jesus understood that it is in such hospitality that we communicate that “my life is not fundamentally or fully separated from yours" …"I will identify myself with you…” There is a basic level of inclusion in life. That is precisely why it was shocking and controversial to some… and life changing to others.
Seen again with Cornelius and Peter… Peter…one of the first disciples is called to a home of a Roman centurion…a Gentile. It became the defining moment for what God was doing. (Acts 10) Could Peter as a Jew enter this Gentiles home? Could this powerful Roman authority welcome what this Jewish man had to offer? God led Peer through those tensions and into that home…and the next day the whole family were welcomed into God’s family. The whole process was about Peter choosing to enter this home.
Going to his home WAS part of the message. Hospitality defines the relationship.
This is why true hospitality is not simply what we welcome others into….but entering the space and grace they open up to us. (as Jesus and Peter did.)
We don’t own Jesus. Important to recognize that embracing a heart to serve with Christ… also allows one to be served by others. The humility to serve will be the humility that allows us to be served… and to avoid any sense of superiority and separation.
Jesus was born dependent… it was a part of his connection to be nursed by a teenage mother… taught by a young carpenter…. fed and housed by friends.
> Example: I’ve shared before how on the night before trash day…. Up late… remembered my own trash cans needed to get out because they pick up at dawn on our street… noticed neighbors… so I took theirs out as well. The next day the mother thanked me. The next week….the son. whise responsibility it was to take out the trash, thanked me… and begged me not to tell his mother…. AND HE BROUGHT MINE IN.
> In that simple exchange...we became more truly neighbors.
The power of hospitality lies in the significance of INCLUSION.
Hospitality is an expression of inclusion… including others in the common bonds of care.
While it certainly can refer to how we welcome those we may know…it is really defined by how we welcome those new or newer to our lives…the guest or stranger.
"Hospitality is the gracious inclusion and generous treatment of guests and strangers." 
• The Latin root of the word hospitality is hospes, which refers to a guest, visitor, host or stranger. Our word hospital is derived from this same root word… and the word hostility from it’s opposite. (hostis: stranger, foreigner or enemy.)
Leslie Flynn gives us this helpful background on the meaning of the English word “hospitality.”
The main part of the word hospitality is the word hospital. Ancient travelers, whether pilgrims or businessmen, fared poorly when venturing beyond their own country. Thus religious leaders established international guest houses in the fifth century. These havens were called hospices from hospes, Latin for “guest.”
During the 15th century secular interests took over most entertaining of travelers. So the hospital restricted its function to care and treatment of the sick and handicapped. But originally, hospital meant “a haven for guests.” (Leslie Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, p. 109.)
We've lost that concept today.
We’ve taken what was meant to be a “haven for guests” and we have turned it into a “haven from guests.” Too often, our homes are places where we can go to get away from people.
In modern urban America, our home is often our final line of defense against the world. At the end of a hard day, you rush through the maddening crowds to get home by nightfall. Once inside your castle, you grab the rope and begin pulling up the drawbridge. You push a button and water fills the moat around your house and out come the piranhas.
We need to re-grasp the power of hospitality…to lower our walls and reopen some doors.
It’s a power that sustains life. We use it today in science to speak of a host environment as friendly and hospitable if receives and sustains the life of another.
Every life wants to know where it can be received and given a place to grow.
• The Greek word for hospitality, "philoxenia" is a Greek compound word that means "brotherly love for a stranger."
Jesus pressed the point of inclusion in all that he did… it was his greatest offense.
One night while having dinner at one of the religious leaders homes…
Luke 14:12-14 (MSG)
Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. 13 Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. 14 You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people."
Many versions read like there is no place for friends. That isn’t the intent.
What Jesus says in v. 12 literally should read, "do not always keep inviting your friends.'"
Jesus is not saying don't ever get together with family and friends. He did so himself. His point to the exclusive religious leaders was that if you want to share in what God is doing, don't exclusively restrict your invitation list to those who you already know and like and who are friends with you or family members.
Look at the wider potential.
We also begin to see that hospitality is prophetic because it points to eternal reality.
He went on to describe God’s invitation as that of an invitation to a grand banquet…that GOD is throwing. 
The whole scene declares who God is and what He is doing… eternal reality is reflected in a banquet… and inviting… and inclusion.
This became the very heart of what those who embraced his life would in turn embraced.
It is here that Jesus' model formed the thinking of the early church.
• For Jesus, the distinctive of hospitality was that you not only opened up your home and your life to friends, those you already know, those you already have relationship with, but you open up your home and life to the stranger, to people you don't know.
• You live in an ever increasingly larger circle.
• Hospitality was a criterion for choosing elders. No one could be considered a leader if they didn’t show hospitality. It was required of leaders to be “hospitable” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7-8)
• It was a commandment given to all Christians. And hospitality is a standard by which you and I will be judged eternally.
• Christ even pointed to the practice of hospitality as evidence that we have come to know him as Savior, and a lack of hospitality as evidence that we haven't.
• William Barclay said that true “Christianity was and still should be the religion of the open door.”
Everyone has the power of hospitality within them.
Hospitality is not some secondary quality in life with God…it is central to living the life of God.
The Bible tells us that some have an extra supernatural gifting in the power of hospitality. God’s nature is gifted uniquely to every person…and some have a spiritual gifting in hospitality. Many of those among us that welcome us as we gather in our weekend and weekday gatherings have the gift of hospitality.
But like all gifts…such reflections of God are not just to be expressed by those with special gifting. We are all called to exercise the power of hospitality.
“Practice hospitality. (NIV) = “make an effort”… intentional
“Be inventive in hospitality.” (Message)
So lets consider...
Some principles for joining in the power of hospitality…
1. Hospitality flows from God… through our own experience of profound inclusion.
The whole Bible is the story of Divine hospitality... because it is the story of God’s invitation defined by inclusion.
Our tendency is to think in terms of what must simply emanate from us… and as such… that we must create a hospitable inclusive world.
> But such a world already exists…it is the very life that Jesus extends to us… invites us to enter. In telling us this story… Jesus makes clear that it is GOD who is the grand host.
While the world is intensifying over the nature of relationship towards ‘foreigners and aliens’… the Biblical storyline reminds us that we all have been such in relationship to God and His eternal kingdom. If we receive Jesus… we enter the household… and can in turn extend the household to others.
The Bible reflects the understanding that truth is exclusive, but love is not.
Let your heart flow from God’s hospitality to you. Direct your heart from the motivation of mere obligation to that of extending what God is doing.
2. Hospitality includes but is not limited by our homes or places of living.
The nature of hospitality sees huge significance in our homes… because our homes are the most notable expression of being a family… of being included. The meals that are served there express this in the most essential way.
We must ask… does our home… our place of living… express inclusion to others?
But while that is a question I believe we must ask… I think it is vital to not reduce hospitality to our homes… or even the need to have a home.
Maybe you have some limitations in the opportunity that your living space provides.
> Hospitality is NOT just about our living spaces. There are other ways we can extend ourselves to others.
• Consider some of the life events and transitions people may be in….someone moving in…or moving out… getting married or having a child…or starting a job. These all offer opportunities to connect in common bonds of care.
• Take someone to lunch, coffee…
• Simply choosing to include a person at work that others haven’t
3. Hospitality appreciates the significance of offering what is ‘special’ but is centered in the simple.
Jesus tells us of banquets… but also of basics… even a cold cup of water.
Some may feel…"My House is too messy, and I have no time to keep it up".
Some may think you have to be rich to show hospitality. Fortunately, this is not true. Some of the most hospitable lives in this world are those with the least.
"God won't ask the square footage of your house, He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home."
It’s important not to confuse hospitality with entertaining.
Entertaining can focus on making a special setting…and there are times for it.
Hospitality, on the other hand, is inviting people into your life, just as you are. Hospitality is walking into the living room two steps ahead of your guests and kicking the toys behind the couch. Hospitality is sharing whatever you’re having, even if it’s just leftover meatloaf and microwave Tater-Tots. Hospitality is real life. And therefore, by necessity, hospitality is humble. Because if we open up our homes and our lives to people to minister to their needs, some of the messiness of our own lives is going to be exposed. And that’s OK. Hospitality has to come before pride.
> Most people feel more welcomed and comfortable discovering a true home in all it’s real life activity…than something so perfect it is harder to relate to.
"When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul" - Max Beerbohm in And Even Now
It’s not about being Martha Stewart…it’s about being Jesus.
It’s about the treatment of the people not the place.
4. Hospitality involves initiative
Jesus was intentional...and he calls us to be intentional.
The primary roadblock for most of us….is that we feel too busy. Hospitality takes time….and life will probably not just hand you a bunch of extra time. It does put you out. It draws you out of your self…pushes you outside your comfort zone
A lot of us may see our house as a sanctuary. We may be thinking: “My house is the place where I get away from people, not where I have them in!”
John Piper says:
The physical force of gravity pulls everything to the center of the earth. In order to break free from earth-centered life, thousands and thousands of pounds of energy have to push the space shuttle away from the center. There is also a psychological force of gravity that constantly pulls our thoughts and affections and physical actions inward toward the center of our own selves and our own homes.
Therefore the most natural thing in the world is to neglect hospitality. It is the path of least resistance. All we have to do is yield to the natural gravity of our self-centered life, and the result will be a life so full of self that there is no room for hospitality. We will forget about it. And we will neglect it. So the Bible bluntly says. Stop that! Build a launching pad. Fill up your boosters. And blast out of your self-oriented routine. Stop neglecting hospitality. Practice hospitality.
Hospitality isn’t easy for many of us. The greater value we place on privacy, the less likely we are to practice hospitality. We may think it will steal away the little bit we have in life.
> I ask you to stop and look face to face into that feeling… because it belies the greater truth… that our lives become bigger when they are expanded by compassion and hospitality. Not more comfortable… but more rich… more satisfying.
There is a lot that could be said for having appropriate boundaries and balance in our lives… but I don’t want us to miss the vital challenge that most of us need to engage. This isn’t easy… but it’s essential.
A Challenge: Join a vision to...
• Connect with the closest 8 neighbors over these weeks of November
• Plan a holiday get together (potentially the weekend of Dec. 6-8)
We even have a great suggestion….consider the first weekend after Thanksgiving…the first weekend in December….before all the other commitments on the schedule.
Consider a simple cider and desert gathering on Friday evening… or Sunday evening afternoon (not AE).
Use the term “holiday” rather than Christmas… that welcomes those from Jewish Hanukkah traditions…and secular.
Great to be the host...but even better would be getting neighbors to do it together.
I’ll close with this verse from Hebrews:
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Now, there was an instance in the Old Testament when Abraham showed hospitality to some folks who turned out be angels. But I don’t think the author of Hebrews is saying we should expect the same thing to happen to us. What I think he’s saying that if we step out in faith and obey God in this area, we are going to be blessed in unexpected ways. If we practice hospitality, serving one another and reaching out to strangers, then God will be present in our homes, and we will see him do remarkable things.
CLOSING... God touch us with His heart... invite you to respond in a couple ways...
MINISTRY – Opportunity for making space in our hearts
Some may not feel they have a sense of belonging out of which to extend space to others.
COMMUNION –Jesus served his followers as his last meal. That night the bread and the wine became the symbols of the sacrificial nature of divine hospitality (Luke 22:7-19). The Last Supper was a real meal. And it was to be there new vocation… rooted in eternity… but also prophetic… as he told them…
‘ I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." - Matthew 26:29 (NIV)
Our lives will be welcomed to a banquet… we are a preview community… and the bread and juice of the vine is a preview meal.
> So the table of communion is that which God invited us into as the very means of communion with him. I invite us to come receive that meal…and as we do…consider how we can set a table for others.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the hospitality that flows from you.
For the hospitality that flows through us.. and among us… we thank you.. and ask that you would bless it.
Many of us know that we have become small… we’ve allowed our meaning to become disconnected… our tables have become small. Show us where our privacy has become a detriment… where our boundaries have become our bondage. Teach us about your party… and how to be a part of it.
Resources: Ray Pritchard
1. This is my best attempt to combine the heart of may definitons of hospitality. The American Heritage Dictionary defines hospitality as “welcoming guests with warmth and generosity…and well disposed toward strangers.”
The Greek word for hospitality, "philoxenia" is a Greek compound word.
• Philo means love, like Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love."
• Philoxenia means the love of xenos - stranger; the love of a stranger.
• Hospitality literally is the love of a stranger.
The word hospitality derives from the Latin ‘hospes’, which is formed from hostis, which originally meant a 'stranger' and came to take on the meaning of the enemy or 'hostile stranger' (hostilis) + pets (polis, poles, potentia) to have power. Furthermore, the word hostire means equalize /compensate. [From http://hospitality.askdefine.com/]
> It defines the way in which one gives place to another.
2. This passage continues: Luke 14:15-18, 21-24 (MSG)
That triggered a response from one of the guests: "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God's kingdom!" 16 Jesus followed up. "Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. 17 When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, 'Come on in; the food's on the table.' 18 "Then they all began ... making excuses. ...21 "The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, 'Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.' 22 "The servant reported back, 'Master, I did what you commanded—and there's still room.' 23 "The master said, 'Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full!
Story of Banquet in NIV translation
Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Luke 14:15-18, 21-24 (NIV)
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' "But they all alike began to make excuses. …The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.