Acts 2:46 “They ate together in their homes happy to share their food with joyful hearts.”
Acts 2:46 “The believers met together in the Temple every day they ate together in their homes happy to share their food with joyful hearts.”
Acts 5:42 “Every day in the Temple and in the people’s homes they continue teaching the people and telling them the good news, that Jesus is the Christ.”
Philemon 1-2 “To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer, and to the church in your house…”
Romans 16:3-5 “Greet, Priscilla and Aquila: the church that is in their house…”
Colossians 4:15 “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and the Nymphas and the church that is in his house.”
I love, love, love where Pastor went. For years we were judged for not attending a “church”. After a time I grew to retort that I am in church everyday because God’s first church was that of trees, fields, and blue sky. The houses, the church, the synagogue, the stone temples all came later. And I wonder why these came? Were these buildings born of necessity as the world grew larger? Or more people were forgetting the word of God?
Regardless, for me, I suppose the Bible teachings I was rendered to as a youth stuck because I held the belief for a lifetime that worshipping God doesn’t have to be done only inside an ordained building, but in the everyday places you visit through your life. I just could not quote the scripture in support of this attitude. Thankfully I have Pastor Bill for the scripture portion.
Don’t get my statement wrong; I appreciate being a part of a congregation and even the church setting. I suppose one of the reasons (and there are many starting with the leadership) I appreciate Plymouth so much is it is small, homey feeling, and provides a much more intimate experience. We could rotate from home to home with the size of some Sunday turnouts. And I would not be opposed. When Bill suggested that we move our Sunday worship to the round tables in the great hall, and out of the pews, I was a bit giddy at the idea of sitting around a table, talking about life, God, and all his workings; learning, listening, and sharing. Pastor opened up this idea but everyone just sat mesmerized, hanging off his words to see where he’d go next, or maybe we were all a bit intimidated at his suggestion, or maybe even wondered if he were joking. Had he moved toward the tables, though, I have no doubt every person would have followed.
And then there is the blessing of the food. In each of the above scriptures read food was involved as part of the hospitality. (Check out this link: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2002/07/Bless-This-Food.aspx.)
Bill asked us about being hospitable to those that are lonely, frail, and downtrodden. In blessing our food we not only provide for the benefit of saying thank you to our Lord for having this food, but we are offering up something more – graciousness, hospitality, and appreciation. For some the gift of food is like an actor winning the Academy Award. Their level of thanks for having a meal, any meal, or feeding their kids, is something so many of us take for granted. In our giving thanks, though, we can use Bill’s words and guidance to keep the many families and people that will go without.
Bill says, “Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the down town soup kitchen. But who can’t be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches?
Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality.
You can join the ranks of people such as Abraham he fed not just Angels the Lord of the Angels Genesis 18. Rehab the harlot. She received unprotected spies. Thanks to her kindness, her kindred survive, and her name is remembered Joshua 6:22-23 Matthew 15.
Martha and Mary. They opened their home for Jesus. To his table He, in turn, opened the grave of Lazarus for them John 11:1-45, Luke 10:38-42.
Zacchaeus. He welcomed Jesus to his table. And Jesus left salvation as a thank you gift Luke 19:1-10.
What about the greatest example of all – the certain man of Matthew 26:18? On the day before his death, Jesus told his followers, going to the city to a certain man and tell him, the teacher says the chosen time is near I will have a Passover with my followers at your house.
How would you have liked to be the one who opened his house for Jesus? You can be. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did for me. Matthew 25:40 as you welcome strangers to your table, your welcoming God himself.
But how do we deliver this message and seem sincere, to provide the warmth of hospitality that Bill is leading us towards? How did God send his message? By bird? By tablet? Or by man?
Bill leads us with these thoughts, “Issue a genuine invitation let to your guests know you want them to come. Call them on the phone, or step over to their desk at work. Are they neighbors? Knock on their door and say we would love for you to join us at our dinner table tonight. Please come.”
So, you prepare your table, your home, and your heart to invite your neighbor to dinner. How many times will you be rejected? Would such a bold approach and expectation work in today’s American society? We are a society where children aren’t feed before the times they should be going to sleep, and going to sleep after they should be long into sweet dreams. A society that is measured on how full your calendar is instead of how much time you spend in your massive homes. Would this challenge of Bill’s, these values of God, even work, without careful planning, organizing, and coordinating of schedules?
Pastor Bill, “Make a big deal of their arrival. Gather the entire family at the front door. Swing it open as you see them approach. If you have a driveway, meet them on it. If your apartment has a lobby, be waiting for them. This is a parade worthy moment. One of God’s children is coming to your house!
Address the needs of your guest. First century hospitality included foot washing. Modern-day hospitality includes the sharing of a time to talk over food and drink. Have no televisions blaring in the background. No invasive music. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to speak. Go around the table and share favorite moments of the day or memories of the week. Like the good shepherd, we prepare a table and restore the soul.
Send them out with a blessing. Make it clear you’re glad your guests came. Offer a prayer for their safety in a word of encouragement for their travel. Walk them to the door. Embrace them in body and spirit.
The event need not be elaborate to be significant. Don’t listen to the Martha Stewart voice, the voice that says everything must be perfect. The house must be perfect. The China must be perfect. Meal. Kids. Husbands. Wives. Everything must be perfect. Scented guest towels, warm appetizers, after dinner mints.
If we wait until everything is perfect, we will never issue an invitation.
Remember this: What is common to you is a banquet to someone else. You think your house is small, but to the lonely heart, it is a castle. You think the living room is a mess, but to the person whose life is a mess, your house is a sanctuary. You think the meal was simple, but to those who eat alone every night, pork and beans on paper plates taste like filet mignon. What is small to you is huge to them.
Open your table.
Even more, open your circle. Be certain to invite not just the affluent and successful, but when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed Luke 14:13-14.
The Greek word for hospitality combines two terms love and stranger.
The word literally means to love a stranger. All of us can welcome a guest we know and love. But can we welcome the stranger? Every morning in America more than 39 million people wake up in poverty. In 2012, 17 million households will have difficulty providing food for their families. An estimated 1.1 million children live in households experiencing hunger multiple times throughout the year. And this is in America, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.
When we provide food stamps, we stave off hunger. But when we invite the hungry to our tables, we address the deeper issues of value and self-worth.
Who would have thought? God’s secret weapon in the war of poverty include your kitchen table and mine.”
And to Open Your Heart, Open Your Door – Part 3.