My all time favorite person that showed up at our house on several occasions, was a man who affectionately came to be known as Jimmy the Indian. I’m guessing I was 5-6 the first time he showed up. It was Christmas Eve. He always came after dark. A knock at the door. My mother will correct me later, Jimmy was from Colorado, or one of the Western States, trying to get to the Yukon, or Alaska. Not enough money. So the border people sent him to our house. My father gave him food, talked to him, sent him on his way. A year later, Christmas Eve, a knock on the door, Jimmy the Indian. A year later, Christmas Eve, a knock on the door, Jimmy the Indian. It probably happened 3 years in a row, but in the mind of a child, it was forever. We came to look forward to Christmas eve, wondering if we’d get a knock on the door.
Hospitality. It’s a spiritual gift. Practicing hospitality is an opportunity to sit in the front row of God’s Kingdom work. You will meet the people God loves, the people that need a helping hand. One person in speaking of the gift of hospitality, described our homes as “hospitals for the weary.” Hospitality means to welcome strangers, to love strangers. In the N.T., as the gospel took root and spread, traveling preachers found homes to stay in from fellow believers. In Acts 21, for example, you can read about no less than four homes Paul stayed as he travelled around the Mediterranean, strangers, fellow believers, who graciously opened their homes. Paul is so appreciative he names his new friends, and their part in the gospel. Hospitality is a wonderful gift. Your home: a hospital for the weary...
Hospitality. A couple of verses enlarge the meaning of hospitality. Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Angels unawares. God’s messengers. Those who practice hospitality know the blessings of welcoming strangers. Jimmy the Indian was so unlike me, I am not sure I personally spoke more than a few words to him in all those years of showing up on our doorstep, but I loved that man… when I left Sumas and lived in the big cities of Pullman, Seattle, Pasadena, San Francisco, people would sometimes comment on how small and backwards Sumas must have been. I’d remind them that we did have electricity. But what they never did get is that the whole world came to Sumas. Sumas has some of the most amazing people with an incredible gift for hospitality. As we see people come to Christ, as we see people transform their lives, hospitality is going to continue to be a major tool that God will use: welcoming strangers. On Friday afternoon at the Rummage Sale I talked with half a dozen people or more in the parking lot, about two hours… it was a nice day, I watched 25 people wander by… somebody have a picnic table or two to donate to the church? (Gale Killam may not like the idea because he’d have to mow around it, but that was LuLu’s idea I think). Hospitality. And you will be blessed, you never know when the person you welcome might be an angel. I suspect I have met dozens of angels, literally angels, over the years. Have some of you met angels?
Here’s another verse that enlarges hospitality. You think you can’t afford to feed people? Think again. 1 Kings 17:8-16. Elijah is the prophet, a drought, Elijah is told to go and stay with a woman and her son, “I haven’t a single piece of bread in the house” the widow says, but Elijah assures her God will provide. So the woman opens her home, Elijah is shown hospitality, and during the lengthy drought the flour never runs out and the oil never goes dry. 1 Kings 17:16: “For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”
Some of you folks are amazing. You have little yet you give. Almost everyday I hear about letting strangers into homes, a place to stay, an hour, an evening, a night. The generosity, the joy you bring… your home truly is a hospital for the weary, if you are one of the people with a wonderful gift of opening your home, welcoming strangers, open your home in the name of Christ…To you it is so natural, but in reality you are using a gift from God that not just anybody can do… The lesson is that God’s economy is different from our own. He will provide. One person keeps giving away her things that she needs, then she has to go get the furniture, blankets, food to replace what she gave away. It’s amazing. I totally believe in the principle of the jar of oil, God will provide, a quiet miracle, like the loaves and fish… maybe our new food pantry will be like the jar of oil…
There is a wonderful saying: "Food is God's love made edible."
Back to the 1 Peter 4:9-10 “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” It’s not really clear if Hospitality is one of the spiritual gifts or not, or if hospitality is one form of practicing all the spiritual gifts, but either way, you practice hospitality “without grumbling” and you will be on the Front Row seat of ministry, because hospitality is about people, and making a difference, and loving people. In the greater Sumas area, hospitality surely is one of the most common and needed gifts there is, it doesn’t get as much press as evangelism, but hospitality is God’s way… perhaps no other gift is needed more at this time and in this place to show the love of Christ to others. To welcome people is to do the work of Christ.
I believe there are people who have a special gift of hospitality, but we are all to practice hospitality at some level. Those who have the incredible gift are not only good at welcoming strangers, but like so many of the gifts, they are also put in place in the body of Christ to remind the rest of us that it is important. Some of you who are so good at opening your home, part of your calling is to demonstrate for the rest of us what it means so that we, too, can discover the blessing and do our part for the sake of the Kingdom. For many of you this message is not about trying to motivate you to do something you aren’t doing, but rather, it is to affirm that what you are doing is a gift from God, the ability to welcome people in the name of Christ, to offer a cup of cold water, to love people through practical ways like offering a pillow, a chair to sit, a place to rest, a picnic table…
Here's one person’s list to figure out if you personally have the gift of hospitality. It makes sense to me:
1. You Enjoy Having People In Your Home. You like the sound of many voices around your table and you enjoy the hustle and bustle of many people coming and going. You would rather be with people than be by yourself.
2. You Look For People You Can Help. When you come to church, or in the community, your radar naturally homes in on new people who look like they need to be taken under someone’s wing. Sometimes it seems like you just stumble into people who need a place to stay.
3. You don’t apologize for messy rooms. Somebody once said, “Lord, Come to My Messy House.” This is one of the clearest evidences of the gift. If someone needs a place to stay, you are glad to offer it to them even though some parts of your house may not be in perfect shape. The rest of us who don’t have this gift feel like we have to apologize if things aren’t perfect. ….those with a gift might do their cleaning right in front of their guests. (Or they give their guests a broom and invite them to join right in!) I like the saying, “the first two days treat your guest like a guest. The third day give him a hoe.”
4. You Aren’t Shocked When People Show Up On Your Doorstep At Any Hour Of The Day Or Night. You expect it, it doesn’t bother you.
5. You Have The Knack For Making People Feel At Home.
Hospitality makes a huge difference to God’s Kingdom Work. When we show hospitality to others. We are only doing for others what God did for us. Consider these words of Jesus:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory… . He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left… . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in.”…The righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in?”… The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:31, 33, 34-35, 37-38, 40)
That’s the bottom line. When you make your home a hospital for the weary, you are opening your home to the Lord Jesus. When you welcome them, you welcome him. Hospitality has its rewards, both now and in the world to come.
Who’s that knocking at your door? It might be Jesus.
Postscript. Interesting story. When Don Hammingh died, as I spoke with Doris, she wanted the scripture read from her favorite translation, “The Living Bible.” Even though I have about 15 translations, I did not have a copy, so my mother gave me her copy, which had belonged to my father. As I was preparing this message a few days ago, my regular Bible was in the other room, so I grabbed the Living Bible. As I flipped through, I came across some of my father’s handwritten notes. The title, “Promises for our church and Sumas to Claim.” The last promise is from Isaiah 54:2: “ Enlarge your house; build an addition; spread out your home! For you will soon be bursting at the seams!”
The time is here! All the spiritual gifts are needed, including the wonderful gift of hospitality. This is a promise and a commitment to claim that more and more people will be welcomed among us. Let’s pray: Lord, may you enlarge our homes like the jar of oil… enlarge our church, enlarge the impact you make through us into the lives of people that come among us. Everything we have is yours. We are so honored to be in a front row seat of your kingdom work as we welcome people into our homes, church and community. Amen.