The Bare Soul
October 30, 2011
The following is the message
text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Heavenly Hospitality" delivered to
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on October 27, 2011.
Heavenly Hospitality - October 27, 2011
Hebrews 13:2 - Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
I read a story recently about a little girl who grew up in the deep south during the 1930s. This family, as most in the depression-era south, had little and eked out an existence rivaling many of those in third-world countries of our present time. One day, this little girl was playing outside her rural home when she heard the clank of steel across the road. It was a chain gang of workers finding a place to rest under a large oak tree across from the family's property. Her mother kindly allowed the men, one by one, to drink as much as they wanted from the water pump outside the house. She remembers her mother busily preparing tuna sandwiches in the kitchen, which was to be her family's supper that night. The little girl recalls carrying lemonade out to the men as her mother went to each man on the chain gang, serving them individually. They were all appreciative, but what one man said resonated with the little girl for decades to come. He said all his life he wondered if he'd ever see an angel, and now he was face to face with one! The mother and daughter went into the house with an empty tray and empty lemonade pitchers. The only explanation her mother gave her for her kindness was out of Hebrews 13:2: Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. She concluded her story by saying she doesn't remember what they ended up having for supper that evening, but she would always remember what they didn't have, and that made all the difference in the world.
The Online Dictionary defines hospitality as "the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way." In scripture, the transliteration of the Greek word hospitality is philoxenos which means "love to strangers." Our present day word derives from the Latin word hospes, where we get our word "hospital." Those in the Middle Ages used this word to describe places where the infirmed and sick could find rest and solace while they healed. (A common name for a hospital in France during this time was the Hotel-Dieu, which literally mans "the hotel of God.") These "oases of love" later became institutionalized into our present day hospitals. However, the adjective of hospitality never lost its significance to the counterpart of the noun, hospital. One might imply a place of healing, where the other signifies the act of bringing healing to those infirmed in both body and soul. Understanding the meaning of both are important concerning how God desires us to operate in this regard. Our Western culture seems to have lost something with doctors secluding themselves in offices rather than making house calls as was the case several decades ago. Our society has allowed institutions, such as these offices or clinics or hospitals themselves, to take the place of taking medical hospitality to others. In like manner, the church at large seems to have lost this attitude of bringing philoxenes or hospes to others who are hurting, both within the Body of Christ and more importantly, to strangers. While many churches certainly concern themselves with hospice and outreach to those hurting within the body, how many go out of their way to seek out strangers who are hurting? It is one thing to bring flowers to a sanitized hospital or hospice environment as an act of kindness. It is quite another to seek out those on the highways and byways of life and to sit with someone hurting on a crumbling piece of sidewalk, listening to their cry for help (Luke 14:23).
While seeking out the "undesirables of society" is certainly something we can all do as committed believers of Jesus Christ, there are far simpler things which can also mean so much to others. When was the last time we smiled at a total stranger, expecting nothing in return? If we do it on a regular basis then my next question would be whether it was toward one of the "beautiful people." By this I mean, was it someone in which we relate to rather than someone we might berate in judgment regarding their looks or social strata? I understand that women need to be careful in this regard, however there are always safe opportunities if one seeks to find them. Jesus tells us the one who offers a cold drink of water to one of these "little ones" will surely never lose their reward (Matthew 10:42). I believe that a cold drink of water may come in many forms of refreshment to a haggard soul needing encouragement on life's journey. When we are hospitable to people, regardless of their demographics, then we are behaving as our Savior ministered while upon this earth. And who knows? Possibly we have interacted with God's angels in our everyday encounters. The writer of Hebrews would not have mentioned the probability if it were not a possibility. Nonetheless, whether it is angels or mere mortals we deal with on a daily basis, Jesus told us through His New Testament writers to show hospitality to all men (Romans 12:13; I Timothy 5:10; I Peter 4:9). In so doing, we do it as unto the Lord which is Whom we serve in the spirit of hospitality (Matthew 25:40).
The question should be asked: Why are we not hospitable when it is in our power to do so? In many cases it comes down to fear -- the fear we will lose something. Years later, the little girl who witnessed her mother's hospitality to a chain gang of men couldn't remember what they ate that night for dinner. The loss was not important. What was of greatest importance is how much she gained through her apparent loss of a few tuna fish sandwiches. Decades later her acquired insight into what it means to show godly love to strangers becomes apparent to all. When we seek to hang onto something out of fear of losing it, then it is often torn from our grasp by an irresistible force which we can't control. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to become servants of all, showing hospitality and brotherly love to others, we find we gain so much more. As we lay down our lives both for our Savior and others, may we all be living "hospitals", bringing hospitality to those most needful of a touch of God's grace!
O Gracious Father, thank you for the example of Your Son! He truly brought hospice to many as He healed some physically, and far more emotionally and spiritually. May we learn from His example, making many "house calls" as we bring the Gospel to those whom You direct. Allow us to give sacrificially until we realize we gained far more than we could ever lose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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