Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sermon Notes: From Hostility to Hospitality

When we think of the major themes of the New Testament, we typically think of words such as faith, grace, salvation, and justification - significant theological terms that describe our relationship with God through Christ. However, there is another significant theme that runs throughout the New Testament - HOSPITALITY.
Henri Nouwen defines hospitality as the "creation of free space into which the stranger is welcomed and where there is the potential for transformation to take place" (see blog entry above for information about Nouwen's writings on hospitality).
The theme of hospitality has its roots in the Old Testament, specifically the story of Abraham, in which three strangers visit Abraham and announce God's promise that Abraham's wife, Sarah, will bear a son. In the New Testament we have the famous story of the two disciples who encounter a stranger on the road to Emmaus. As the disciples share a meal with this stranger, they recognize that the stranger is Jesus in their midst. Finally, the most famous scripture about hospitality is found in the letter to the Hebrews where it says, "Do not neglect to offer hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it."
We Live in a World of Strangers
Even though we are able to connect and share information in ways never before possible, the spiritual hunger for authentic and meaningful relationships remains the same. In fact, many have observed that as we become more "virtually" connected, our capacity for true emotional connection has actually decreased. In the context of this "world of strangers," we are called to the ministry of hospitality.
We Live in a Culture of Hostility
The challenge we face is the culture of hostility in which we live. Our world is so often motivated by fear, agression, and competition. The stranger among us if often viewed with suspicion and anxious speculation. It is important to note that our suspicion can be warranted (we tell our children "Don't talk to strangers!" for a reason). However, we can become consumed and held captive by this fear and suspicion.
Moving from Hostility to Hosptality by Creating Space
Our challenge is to break down walls of hostility and begin opening doors of hospitality. We can begin this transformation in our lives by creating space for the stranger among us. This is exactly what Jesus modeled in his ministry. He broke down walls of hostility and made space for those who had no space. He invited the lame, crippled, blind, and deaf. He invited prostitutes and taxcollectors. Jesus broke down walls of sin and disobedience. He broke down walls of indifference and pride. He broke down walls of pain and brokenness. Jesus created open space in the presence of God into which we are invited.

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