5The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; 6and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. 7But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
1Your love, O Lord, forever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
2For I am persuaded that your steadfast love is established forever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
3“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
4‘I will establish your line forever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.’ ”
15Happy are the people who know the festal shout!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
16They rejoice daily in your name;
they are jubilant in your righteousness.
17For you are the glory of their strength,
and by your favor our might is exalted.
18Truly, our shield belongs to the Lord;
our king to the Holy One of Israel. Amen.
12Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Word of the Lord.
[Jesus said to the twelve:] 40“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When I was a little girl – we had an amazing neighbor named Mrs. Browning. We were next-door neighbors – but our yards were separated by a dense – thick hedge of pine trees and honeysuckle bushes. And as much as I liked Mrs. Browning – I liked her hedge even more. Actually – I loved her hedge – because it was one of the very best places in my world to play.
As the bushes had grown over the years – they formed wonderful – nooks and crannies that made perfect play houses that were just the right size for a little girl and her imaginary friends. During the summer when the leaves hid me from view – I spent hour after hour playing in her hedge. In Mrs. Browning’s hedge – I entered worlds spun from my vivid imagination.
Some days I was a pioneer living in a sod house struggling to survive a raging winter blizzard. Other days I was an intrepid explorer discovering incredible new worlds. And sometimes I was an orphan bravely living in the world helped only by my wits and ingenuity.
I must have talked to myself out loud a lot (even back then) – because more than once when I was a pioneer whose food and water supplies were running dangerously low – Mrs. Browning would bring me life-saving provisions. By generously placing a few chocolate chip cookies and grape Kool-ade on the stoop of my sod house – Mrs. Browning gave me the strength to carry on.
If I were shipwrecked on a scorching hot desert island – she might provide me with the only nourishment I had received in days in the form of a truly refreshing Popsicle or two.
More than once – Mrs. Browning saved me from freezing to death during a wickedly nasty August blizzard.
Mrs. Browning knew all about hospitality. It was such a part of her life that she even offered hospitality to the quirky little girl and her imaginary friends hiding in her bushes.
Who do you think of when you think about hospitality? Who or what comes to mind?
When I think of hospitality – I think of people like Mrs. Browning who have welcomed me warmly and cared for me. Who opened their hearts and made room for me in their lives. I think of people who were patient and loving and gracious.
Dictionaries say that hospitality is the “act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests without reward.”
But what about Christian hospitality? What is Christian hospitality and what does it look like?
As always – the best place to look for answers to questions about our faith is the Bible. So let’s turn to God’s Word. The Bible has a whole lot to say about hospitality.
Most of us tend to think of hospitality as having good manners and being polite when someone stops by for a visit. We think that hospitality means offering our guests something to drink and something yummy to eat. But the Bible tells us hospitality is more than good manners. Hospitality is an act of worship. Hospitality is our sacred duty.
In ancient times – hospitality was literally a life and death matter. After all – people lived in a world without hotels, restaurants, rest stops, debit cards, and 24-hour grocery stores.
Folks depended on the hospitality of complete strangers for survival as they traveled from place to place. If a traveler were not shown hospitality by a stranger – he was very likely going to spend the night hungry and thirsty and quite possibly in considerable physical danger.
Hear the words God shared with his people in Leviticus (19:33-34) – “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”
God is reminding his people that they were once the travelers and the strangers and the people who needed help. God is reminding his people to look to their own history as the strangers in a new place and to be loving and gracious and compassionate.
Saint Paul declared to the Romans (12:12-13) that they should – “Contribute to the needs of the saints. Extend hospitality to strangers.”
It is so very – very easy just to save our hospitality and kindness and generosity for our friends and loved ones. But our God wants us to remember that as his followers we are called to help everyone – even complete strangers!
First Peter (4:9-10) includes the call to Christians to “be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” Seriously – without complaining?!? But most of us are just so good at complaining . . .
Jesus knew the importance of hospitality from firsthand experience. Jesus regularly depended on the hospitality of strangers as he had traveled all over Israel and the surrounding countryside sharing the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy.
Hospitality is deeply tied to our faith in our God.
In our Gospel reading for today – Jesus revealed something very important about Christian hospitality – when Jesus said – “Whoever welcomes you – welcomes me and whoever welcomes me – welcomes the one who sent me.”
Jesus tells us that he and God the Father are present in every single person whose path crosses ours. So when we open our hearts and homes and our church and lives to others – we are opening our hearts and homes and lives to our Lord.
Jesus wants us to see the people who pass through our lives and to be aware of their needs. God wants us to be compassionate – loving and generous. God wants us to open our hearts to his world and to ALL of his people. And by doing this Jesus tells us we will be loving God – caring for God – and serving God.
This is amazingly good news for us – when we serve others we serve our God.
Hospitality is worship and praise. Through hospitality we are given the opportunity and the privilege to be used by God for incredibly important things. Hospitality is a way of thanking God for his blessings to us.
When you welcome others into your heart you are welcoming Jesus.
When you are generous to others you are being generous to your Lord.
When you welcome that new family into the neighborhood – you welcome Jesus.
When you thank that front line worker – you are thanking Jesus.
When you make the stranger who is visiting your church feel at home – you are welcoming God.
When you help by donating nutritious food to Fern Creek/Highview Ministries – you are feeding Jesus.
When you stand in solidarity with the oppressed – you are standing with Jesus.
When we feed a stranger we are feeding Jesus.
When you live lives of hospitality – you are serving God and you are being who God has called you to be. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.