St. Andrew’s EC (August 27&28-2016)
Title: Kingdom Hospitality…
Text: Luke 14:1; 7-14.
The first verse of our Gospel reading for this 15th Sunday after the great feast of Pentecost puts in context Jesus’ teaching about humility and about hospitality. In the first verse of Chapter 14 of his Gospel, the Evangelist Luke tells us that Jesus was attending a dinner party in the home of a prominent but unnamed Pharisee (a member of the powerful Jewish religious establishment), and it is the Sabbath day (Saturday…the 7th day of the week) and Luke tells us that Jesus is being watched…he is “under surveillance”…an ominous reminder that Jesus and his message and ministry have aroused the suspicion of the powerful Jewish religious establishment.
So, our Gospel for this weekend is divided into halves…the first half(verses 7-11) contains Jesus’ teaching about humility, and the focus…the “target audience” of that teaching are the invited guests. The second half of today’s Gospel contains Jesus’ teaching about hospitality, and the focus…the “target audience” is the host…the prominent but unnamed Pharisee. Now, both halves of today’s Gospel are interesting and important, but I would like us to focus our thinking for a few moments this morning on the second half of today’s Gospel…the teaching directed at the host…Jesus’ teaching about hospitality.
Jesus said to the host… “when you host a luncheon or a dinner party don’t invite your wealthy and powerful friends, neighbors and business associates…folks who have the resources to, at some time in the future, return the favor…instead invite the marginal people…people living on the edge…the forgotten people…the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind…folks who could NEVER return the favor…then you will be “repaid…reimbursed at the resurrection of the righteous”…in other words, then your reward will be great in the Kingdom which is coming”.
In order to understand what Jesus is trying to teach us about KINGDOM HOSPITALITY, we need to know one thing…we need to know that the biblical word…the New Testament word…the greek word which is always translated hospitality in the NT is the word PHILOZENIAS (now, this word is an incredibly important Biblical word…it is actually the blending…the merging together of two greek nouns: PHILOS which means LOVE and ZENOS which means STRANGER)… PHILOZENIAS means “love of the stranger”…And I think this is the key to understanding Jesus’ teaching about hospitality…
You see, Biblical hospitality…Kingdom hospitality…the kind of hospitality Jesus is promoting in today’s Gospel is NOT about inviting your church friends over to your house for dinner on Friday night…it’s not about the pot-luck luncheon after the annual meeting in January.…it’s not even about the church picnic that we will enjoy (tomorrow/later this afternoon/as soon as we are finished this Eucharist). Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying…Jesus is certainly prohibiting or event discouraging this kind of hospitality…there is nothing, inherently wrong with this kind of hospitality. What he is
saying is that it’s NOT Kingdom hospitality! Kingdom hospitality…the kind of hospitality that is in harmony with the values and virtues of the Kingdom of God is all about opening your heart and your life….opening your home and your church to the strangers…extending genuine hospitality to folks who are different…outsiders…folks who don’t look like you or act like you or think like you…folks whose values/culture/traditions seem strange and different…folks who are in no position to return the favor! That’s what Kingdom hospitality looks like. So, what the Men’s group is planning for Saturday evening, September 24th…a Community Dinner…where the doors of the Parish House will be opened…not just to church people, but to everyone…everyone is invited…everyone is welcome…That’s Kingdom hospitality. At the August meeting the Vestry approved a proposal from the Meals-on-Wheels of Burlington County to make our church an official “NUTRITION SITE”. Now, the details need to be worked out but we hope that sometime this fall the elderly members of our community will come (four days a week) and enjoy a nutritious meal and some fellowship and fun…that’s KINGDOM HOSPITALITY!! And friends, I believe…I am absolutely convinced that Jesus expects and he delights when his people practice Kingdom Hospitality.
Friends, I have a vision for this church…it is a vision rooted in the Gospel understanding of Hospitality…what if we were so intentional…so disciplined in our practice of Kingdom hospitality that St. Andrews Episcopal Church had the reputation for being most welcoming church in the Mt. Holly…what would we have to do…how would we have to change to be that kind of church…what would we have to do…how would we have to change to become a Christian community which practiced KINGDOM HOSPITALITY??
As our Eucharistic celebration continues this morning…as we prepare once again to approach the Table of God’s amazing grace, to enter into and experience the mystery of Christ’s love in the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist, let us pray for the grace/the discipline/the Will (especially the will) to be a community which practices Kingdom Hospitality…and let us remember that the Table we approach today is the Lord’s Table (it is not our table) and Christ is the host and we are all invited guests…and let us remember that it is at the Lord’s Table where, week after week, we experience the transformative benefit and blessing of KINGDOM HOSPITALITY…and, finally, let us remember…let us never forget, that Christ doesn’t feed us at His Table to make us fat…Christ feeds us to make us FOOD for a hungry/hurting/bruised and broken world…a world filled with folks who are spiritually MALNOURISHED…folks who have a knowing…aching hunger at the center of their lives…a hunger which can only be satisfied by the Living Bread which came down from heaven…the Living Bread which gives life to the world…