Honor the Guest
September 1, 2019

Honor the Guest

Passage: Luke 14:1,7-14, Hebrews 13:2
Service Type:

Prayer: Beloved God...

The Rabbi’s Gift. by M. Scott Peck

Old monastic order... Abbott goes to rabbi for advice... They commiserate and then the rabbi tells him that “the messiah is among you.” The Abbot goes back to his brothers and tells them what the rabbi said:

“In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered if there could be any possible significance to the rabbi's words: The Messiah is among us. Do you think he meant one of us monks here at the monastery?

If he meant one of us, he surely must have been referring to Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation.

On the other hand, he could have meant Brother Thomas; he is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light.

Certainly he could not have meant Brother Eldred! Eldred gets crotchety at times.... But even though he can be a nuisance, when you look back on it, Eldred virtually always has a valid point to make. Perhaps the rabbi did mean Brother Eldred.

But surely not Brother Phillip; he's so passive, a real nobody....But then, almost magically, Philip has this knack of appearing at your side just when you need him the most. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah.

But of course the rabbi wasn't referring to me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet what if he were? What if I am the Messiah? Please, God, not me; I couldn't mean that much to you, could I?”

As time went on, the brothers began to treat one another, and even themselves, with more respect and love than ever before. 

I probably don’t have to tell you the end of the story for you to imagine how it wraps up, but suffice it to say, the love that was felt in that community began to have an impact on all who visited there and eventually it began to grow again.

So much of the bible talks about hospitality. One of the earliest examples that directly talks about offering hospitality to strangers is in Genesis with Abraham and Sarah. Remember the three angels who came to talk with them and told them that they would be having a child despite their old age? Abraham immediately responded to these strangers as holiness in disguise and offered nourishment and rest. 

Later in the law it is spelled out that God’s people are to “love the [stranger] as yourself, for you were [strangers] in the land of Egypt.” 

The prophets consistently condemn God’s people for failing to be hospitable to the poor, the stranger, and the outcast. 

Finally, we see Jesus pair hospitality with humility in the passage we just read as well as in other places. Everything from his modeling of servant leadership with the washing of the disciple’s feet to parables about feeding “the least of these,” inviting the poor to our shared meals, and welcoming the little children. Over and over again, Jesus makes it very clear that the people we least want to love and embrace are the very ones that we are expected to love and embrace. 

It isn’t easy. We all have our biases. We all have people that we find distasteful or unpleasant and everyone’s tastes vary. For every kind of person in this world there is someone who dislikes them. And the ones who have the most people who dislike them are the ones that Jesus especially tells us to reach out to and love. That’s our charge! It’s undoubtedly going to be uncomfortable from time to time, but who said that being a Christian was easy? 

Mother Teresa is a name familiar to just about everyone, but perhaps less known is why she became the gracious saint that she did. From early in her life, Mother Teresa realized that she saw Jesus in every person that she met. Indeed, the poor were, as she put it, “Jesus in his most distressing disguise.” She worked in Calcutta India. She, and those called to work with her, took in and loved some of the most dejected, the most despised, the most overlooked, and the dirtiest, stinkiest, sickest people on the planet. She said, “Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

How can we learn to be faithful in the small things? How can we learn to love without getting tired? How can we push ourselves out of our comfort zones and love those we least want to like, let alone love? The answer is profoundly simple: we must humbly practice it. Sunday mornings are a perfect time to practice humble hospitality. When we come together as a faith community, we can say hi to someone we’ve never met before. We can choose to smile or gently laugh when a child bumps into us or makes loud noises before, during, or after worship. We can be curious without judgment when we meet someone new. 

We can introduce newcomers to one another. We can help one another feel loved, accepted, and like we all belong here together.

So, who’s ready to get a little uncomfortable? Good. Because I’m about to shake things up a bit. I want you to look around the room. Find someone who you don’t know or don’t know very well yet. When I say “go” I want you to move around the room. Try to get into groups of two’s and three’s. People who are more mobile, it is up to you to move toward people who might have mobility issues. People who have been part of this church for years, it is up to you to make sure that everyone in the room has a conversation partner. (It is possible that a few people will request not to participate, that’s ok. We don’t need to force ourselves on others, but we must try.) Then, once you are in groups, I invite you to introduce yourselves to one another. Share names, what town you live in, what town you grew up in, and a favorite hobby. You may also talk about how awful it is that the pastor is making you do this - it’s ok, I can take it. Finally, after worship is over you will have one more assignment, that is to introduce the person you just met to someone else. This will be easier for folks who have been here for a while than newcomers, but I have faith that you can do it! Are you ready? No? Perfect! Go!

{time for activity}

Beloved friends, Hedding family, the messiah is among us. We never know when we might be showing hospitality to an angel. My hope and prayer is that every Sunday morning you would all look around the room and find someone you don’t know, or don’t know well yet, and choose to have a conversation with them. Make sure that every newcomer feels loved and welcome and practice humble hospitality. It is, more than anything else, what will help this place become a beacon of love and light and goodness that others will want to be a part of. Let’s do this!

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *