Summary: Based on the book by Robert Shnase, this is week 1 focusing on "Radical Hospitality."
Matthew 22:1-10 NIV
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 "Then he sent some more servants and said, ’Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 "But they paid no attention and went off-- one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 "Then he said to his servants, ’The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
A man by the name of Jim Dunn was serving as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. His wife, Gladys, was a very friendly lady. She understood how important it is to make people feel welcome at church so she always made a point to talk to as many people as she could both before and after the service. One particular Sunday the morning worship service lasted a little longer than usual. In fact it lasted so long that most of the people were either looking at their watches or fidgeting in their seats. And of course there were even a few who fell asleep. After the service, the pastor’s wife was walking around talking to different people in the congregation when she noticed a man who looked like he was still about half asleep. She walked over to the elderly gentlemen who was sitting there trying to adjust his hearing aid and said, "Hello, I’m Gladys Dunn." The man looked up at her and said, “yea, I’m glad he’s done too, I didn’t think he was ever going to quit.”
We are beginning our five week sermon series today focusing on the “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” We have been reading it as the Visioning Team and it has been giving us some good insights into Scripture, and it has challenged us to ask some very important and some very tough questions about the church. Now, it is your turn to venture into the waters of reformation… to explore scripture on a daily basis… to think… to question… to explore… to share… to talk. Hopefully, as a result we will all be a little closer to answering the question “What is a church?”
In some ways… the book has a very difficult premise about how the church today needs to change the very core of its being. At the same time… the premises of the book are extraordinarily simply… if I were to sum the entire book up into two simple words… they would be…. BE THE CHURCH. (turn)
It focuses on five basic principles that can be found in every thriving church in America: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. We are going to be spending these next five weeks learning about each one. Not a one is more important than the other… like the illustration at the start… you can be welcoming… but what good is it if the worship is dull. My hope is that these sermons will spark some interest. My hope is that these sermons will spark some conversation. My hope is that these sermons will spark some ideas. So if the Holy Spirit moves you during these following weeks… please… don’t keep it to yourself.
Chapter one of the book focuses on a principle that every church practices… but not every church does well… the practice of WELCOME. You know, back when I was still in seminary, my friends and I were reading church resumes trying to discern where God was calling us to go. Can you guess what 90% of the churches said in their very first paragraph? “We are a friendly church.” Now… can any of you guess what even 10% of them meant by that? Does it mean… “I know everyone in my church?” Does it mean… “We like to touch and hug a lot?” Does it mean… “As long as you are Presbyterian… we will treat you like gold?” Or does it mean… “We are a welcoming community that accepts all people and does our very best to ensure that every person comes into contact with the living Christ through our warm community of faith.” In case you are wondering… yes First Pres Fairbury had “friendly church” in it’s church resume… but the real question is… what does that mean?