Radical Hospitality at the Season of Throbbing Divisiveness and Holiday Lights
I was asked to preach tomorrow about Radical Hospitality at my church. It will be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with the excitement for the holidays in the air. Folks have been putting up their Christmas decorations, the good old songs are on the radio, shopping and deals are on everyone’s mind. It could be such a cheerful and easy sermon to preach. Welcome Jesus into your heart, welcome people you love into your home, celebrate with your church, give to charities and be happy. Why then am I struggling with this sermon so much?
I worked my way through 1 Peter 4:8-10, the assigned text for the sermon. I digged into Greek this time, no big discoveries, but a good exercise that made me slow down with the text and figure out where is my resentment coming from:
8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
Why does the author have to command or demand or beg us to maintain constant love, be hospitable, and serve one another? Well the answer is obvious, because apparently we do not do these things. But isn’t it like Christianity 101? That’s what the whole church business is all about! Yes, I hear you, it seems pretty basic, but… And here is the struggle, because I have to admit to myself, that I am not above or beyond the scope of these commands. I, maybe more than many others, need to hear them and then reassess myself and see where I am failing to live them out. That would be one reason why I struggle with the sermon (and it is Saturday night right now!) I am not going to spill my guts out here in my blog, but even 1-minute reflection showed me how narrow is my scope of love, hospitality and service. Horrifyingly narrow! Embarrassing!
Maintaining constant and unfailing love means what it says it means – CONSTANT, RELIABLE, NONSTOPPABLE love.
Multitude of sins – I have always thought that be loving others I “cover” my own multitude of sins, in some kind of atonement. Love also covers a multitude of sins of those who I ought to love – as unlovable as they could be. It is only through a lens of love that I could look at all their sins and still authentically love them. Isn’t it what God does with all of us and our multitude of sins?
Be hospitable without complaining – Hospitality means basically sharing of time, space, things, food, emotions, past, present, and future. Hospitality demands openness of yourself, dropping off all the filters. Hospitality is hard work, it is a lot of giving of oneself. Just thinking about hosting a dinner at my house makes my blood pressure go up. But Bible goes way beyond the dinner to family and friends. Gospel parables about feasts speak about inviting all from the highways and the backroads. Yes, hospitality is supposed to be hard. That’s why it is a command. That’s why we complain. I guess if I don’t feel like complaining, I am not hospitable enough.
Good stewards – that’s who we are. Not owners, but managers whose duty is to follow instructions and serve the master and master’s guests. We are called to be loving and hospitable stewards of God to God’s people. And although we want to complain, because it is darn hard, we should not complain. That’s the kind of hospitality the Bible is talking about.
Yes, I resist this sermon, because God’s vision for hospitality is so wide, that my head starts to spin. I think of all the people I do not want to welcome and serve to, because somehow in my mind they are not deserving of my hospitality. Well, I am not the one who decides, I am just a steward.
So what am I going to preach about tomorrow? I will ask people to extend their hospitality (sharing of their space, time, resources, and presence) beyond their comfort zone, beyond that pleasant feeling of doing good, but to the point when they want to complain. Complain because it is not fair, it is too much, these people do not deserve it (you know the rant)… And do it constantly, not just during the holiday season, where we want to go an extra mile.
I know that after I preach the sermon, I should be the first one to actually practice what I have learned. Maybe, that is why I am resisting this sermon. Already complaining, of course. But also discovering where I need growth and transformation. I got too comfortable and it is time to stretch my love, hospitality and service to the people who (in my opinion) may have a multitude of sins.
If you got to this point in my blog, then you are stuck with the question – to whom are you going to extend your love, hospitality and service, in spite of wanting to complain and running through a long list of their multitude of sins? Who will that be this time? Say it out loud.
If all of us follow these three commands, then maybe we all together, communally could reach the breadth of God’s love, so that NO ONE in this world remains UNLOVED, UNINVITED, and NOT SERVED.