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Summary: Our truest self lies not in autonomy but in relationship with God and others.

We’re continuing in our series entitled “Living Beyond Self’… where we have considered the very nature of who we are and how we find ourselves. We’ve noted…

Our truest self lies not in autonomy but in relationship with God and others…. and finds itself when given to these.

So the ‘self’ grows through relationship… not becoming lost in others… but in relationship to others.

The internal working is that of compassion… the power to see the need and potential of all… identify with it… and extend what we have to serve it.

Compassion is that which expands us… as it makes room to take in others in our inner being.

When we become self-absorbed… we become small… but the compassionate person is truly the bigger person.

Compassion is the essence of living beyond self… the sustenance of the soul that allows us to become bigger… to grow into the fullness of our God-given nature.

This past week… following the historic inauguration of Barak Obama to the presidency of the United States… a National Prayer service was held as the start of his first day. There the pastor spoke quite pointedly to the new president… and drew upon the words of the prophet Isaiah…

Isaiah 58:6-8 (NIV)

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice …to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear…”

This is the biblical way. It is also the American way—to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all. This is the center we can find again whenever we are pulled at and pawed at by the vengeful wolf, when we are tempted by the self-interested fast.

America’s true character, the source of our national wisdom and strength, is rooted in a generous and hopeful spirit.

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, . . .

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

Emma Lazarus’ poetry is spelled out further by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,: “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made.”

(Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins message at National Prayer Service January 21, 2009)

These words bring home what God has been speaking to us.. and where we continue today. From seeing that we are connected to developing the inner state of compassion that moves us to extend ourselves… and now this morning I want to take up what that action takes up. HOSPITALITY

> To join life in God is to join in HOSPITALITY.

I realize that hospitality may not sound like the highest expression of spiritual life.

When we use the word hospitality… what are the first ideas and images that come to mind? Perhaps we think of warm meals around a finely decorated table… to which Martha Stewart is the queen.

> I want to help us transform both our understanding of what hospitality means… but also the significance in our lives… in living the life of Jesus… of living beyond ourselves.

I believe that no word may have become as misused as the word ‘hospitality.’

When we consider the life of Jesus… the centrality of gatherings… many of which were meals.

What was more powerful and prophetic in the way Jesus lives and shared life… 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.

The power of hospitality lies in the significance of INCLUSION.

Hospitality is an expression of inclusion… including others in the kind of care that reflects a common bond.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines hospitality as “welcoming guests with warmth and generosity…and well disposed toward 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.)

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