The Rest of Your Life – Hospitality

At Gateway Church in Austin, we kicked off our series on the “The Rest of Your Life.”

Jesus is telling us there’s a better way to live than the anxious, stressed-out way of our culture. There’s a path that leads to peace and rest. 

There are Ancient practices that we see Jesus practicing and teaching—these Ancient Practices actually combat the ways that leave us burdened, burned out, and broken down.

This week we will look at hospitality. Hospitality is an open-hearted posture toward others of intentional, generous, sharing of what you have to offer. Hospitality is the answer to the problem of loneliness and isolation.

DIGGING DEEPER:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Discussion Questions

Message Audio:

Message Notes from John Burke:

Today we’re starting a new series called The Rest of Your Life. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 12:28-30

Jesus is telling us there’s a better way to live than the anxious, stressed-out way of our culture. There’s a path that leads to peace and rest. There are Ancient practices that we see Jesus practicing and teaching—these Ancient Practices actually combat the ways that leave us burdened, burned out, and broken down.

So each week we’ll talk about an Ancient practice that answers a modern problem. Practices in Scripture help us with confusion. 

  • We’ll see how Solitude is the answer to the problem of distraction and anxiety. 
  • The Practice of Sabbath & fasting apply to busyness and misdirection. 
  • Finally we’ll see how Community cures the problem of selfishness. 

Today, let’s talk about an Ancient Pathway that’s not well-known or practiced: Hospitality. 

Some of us think hospitality is throwing parties—that excites you. Some of us get nauseous at the thought—don’t make me throw parties. But hospitality is not about throwing parties, real Hospitality is the answer to the problem of loneliness and isolation.

Imagine someone knocks on the door—it’s your neighbor you’ve never met who introduces himself. You invite him in, and as you start making small talk in the kitchen, he opens your refrigerator pulls out something to drink and something to eat and helps himself. 

  • What would you be thinking? 
  • Who do you think you are? 
  • Somethings off with this guy—right!? 
  • Is he a Kramer-want-a-be? 

Now, say you get a knock at the door, and it’s your brother or sister or best friend. You invite them in, you’re catching up in the kitchen, they open the fridge, get out some food and help themselves. What are you thinking? It’s okay—right!? Why? 

Well, Dr. Will Miller would say, “They have Refrigerator Rights.” But it’s not just about the food in your fridge, is it?  It’s about more than that. 

Imagine if your neighbor came over 3 years later, but you had often had him in your home, and you had often been in his home, you had BBQ’d with each other’s family, jogged together every morning, helped each other with projects, served together, you’d been at family birthday parties, walked with each other through job loss, and grief.  

Now imagine he walks in, goes straight to the fridge, helps himself. It feels totally different—there’s something healthy about that—right?  Some of you are thinking—NO, that’s MY food, stay away. If so, you have a lot bigger concerns than people taking your food.

Dr. Miller, who wrote the book, Refrigerator Rights—talks about growing up, 60 years ago, when most Sundays his family ate dinner together. He said, “virtually every week I spent an afternoon with all my aunts, uncles and cousins – about 25 of us in all.” 

I’ve seen the exponential change of society—that most of you under 40 don’t realize happened. When I was growing up, people didn’t move as often. You ended up with the same neighbors and the same stores with the same owner. Everything has changed since then. While I was growing up the divorce rate increased 300% in one decade. The norm became the expectation that your closest relationships won’t last. 

The baby boomer generation was termed The ME Generation, because the values that were highest were “all about me” – getting the things that I want that would make ME happy. The value of WE–family, community, relationship, hospitality was sold at discount prices to gain more financial success and material stuff. The Me Generation included the material girls and boys that Madonna’s 80s hit song memorialized. Latchkey kids were those raised on MTV instead of mom’s milk and cookies. 

Bottom line, most of us here grew up in a relational whirlwind—no relational roots.  

But like fish growing up in muddy water, we don’t even know there’s clean water available– cause muddy water is all we’ve known. But it’s created a culture of isolation and loneliness—but hospitality is the antidote.

Jesus taught us the greatest commands are to Love God, and Love People. In other words “All of life is relationship—the rest are details.”  But most Americans don’t believe that, or don’t live that way, and I’m convinced it’s what’s causing so much of our angst, anxieties, depressions, addictions, feelings of emptiness or hopelessness. 

That’s why this series is going to be SO important because we, as God’s church, following His Ancient Proven Pathways of spiritual growth are perfectly designed to do something about all this—together. 

That’s what we’re going after the next few weeks—so don’t miss it, get in a group, let’s grow together.

Okay, So WHAT IS Hospitality? 

As we will see, it’s NOT just throwing parties, or letting people stay in your home (though that could be included), but it’s a posture of living.  

Let me give a working definition then we’ll unpack it’s biblical roots:

“Hospitality is an open-hearted posture toward others of intentional, generous, sharing of what you have to offer.”

God commands his people, the Israelites, to have this hospitable open-hearted posture toward all people—even foreigners, immigrants, and strangers.  

He tells Moses: 

 “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land.  Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself…I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34. 

Think about this. God is saying, “treat the foreigner—the person who is not “of you” not as the “other” but as “one of your own.”  Love them just like you love yourself.  This is a radical posture of openness to all people. That’s hospitality.

In Jesus’ day, the Greek word translated “hospitality” Philoxenia – comes from two Greek words, “philo” meaning “brotherly love” and “xenos” meaning “stranger.”

So hospitality literally means “love of strangers.” It’s connected to the two greatest commands which Jesus said sums up all commands:  

Love God first, and love your neighbor as yourself.

And as Jesus pointed out in the parable of the Good Samaritan—our neighbor may just be a stranger we meet along the road of life.  

That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! – Hebrews 13:1-2. 

So Hospitality is a Posture of Open-Heartedness toward others first and foremost.

What might an Open-hearted posture toward otherslook like in our Modern Era? 

It could be just relationally engaging to BLESS your neighbors, like we talked about recently. 

Praying for them, listening to learn about them, eating with them, serving them and sharing your story. 

For those of you in the busy years with kids, don’t miss these moments. When our kids were in elementary school and middle school, we had so much going on with our neighbors, families of kids we coached in baseball. We had them in our home, we had parties together, we laughed and played built into their kids and encouraged them as parents—helped when needs arose—and we told them about the God loved them and what he had done in our lives and several of our neighbors and baseball families came to faith and became part of our church – because God’s Hospitality is life giving to people. 

So think how you could be Open Hearted in similar ways.

  • I think of Sonya who met Michelle in a dog park and invited her to Gateway where she is now involved with the singles group.
  • I think of some of you who have invited your neighbors into your home and to one of our small groups or to a Sunday morning.
  • In January, during Pray First, a woman named Linda joined us online every morning. It was amazing how the prayer requests started with personal needs but as the two weeks went on they became prayers for co-workers and then strangers she met. She even began asking friends for blankets to give to those she saw who had no home.

Or being Open-Hearted to people could mean staying open to God’s Spirit prompting you to help a stranger in need.

And I was reminded of Jesus’ words, 

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 invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?…“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:35-40

Maybe Hospitality to a stranger is less about what we can do for them, and more about what we do to love God by simply being Open-Hearted and loving toward a stranger. 

And Jesus made it clear, when we show hospitality in these ways to the “other”—it’s God who feels it the most.  

And as a side note, when people clinically die, are resuscitated, and have a near-death experience—many get a life review in God’s presence and they say, “He showed me how every little act of kindness affected that person, and also rippled through humanity” and they feel God’s joy over every act of kindness shown.

If not for God, consider serving others as an example to your family, your friends, or if you are a parent to your kids.

ERIC:

Some of you know I grew up going to church. I loved it as a kid, and hated it as a middle schooler. Then something terrible happened. My Dad was asked to be a leader in our church so instead of just going on Sunday mornings to Sunday School and the church service, we had to start going on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights!

I was so mad and disappointed.

I was also confused. My Dad didn’t seem like a spiritual leader. We prayed before every meal and we went to church every week, but we didn’t talk about God much.

What I discovered was that my Dad was taking sermon tapes to people who were too old or too sick to attend on a Sunday. 

As frustrated as I was with this season, I secretly respected my Dad. I began to see him and see serving God differently. It was also in that season of being required to go to youth group that I had an encounter with God, really sensed a call into becoming a pastor, and really experienced transformation.

But I know what happens—you see homeless people everywhere, and you get “compassion fatigue” – you change channels from seeing kids starving because you think “there are millions, what good can I do?” 

We have to fight against an All or Nothing mentality—and be Open-hearted to the One Person God puts in our path.  

That’s Hospitality.

“Hospitality is … intentional….” 

The earliest picture of Hospitality comes from Genesis 18. Abraham and Sarah are living in tents 4000 years ago in modern-day Israel, when Abraham sees 3 strangers standing nearby. In those days, it could be travelers, or it could be robbers—you had to decide because you just can’t call the cops.  

When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground. “My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet…let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.” – Genesis 18:2-5.  

Hospitality is intentionality.

Abraham doesn’t wait for them to beg, he assumes the best (not the worst), runs out to them, and offers to meet needs—washing off after a dusty walk, providing drink and food to refresh them. As Abraham discovered, the three men he helped were actually the Angel of Yahweh (the pre-incarnate Jesus) and two angels. 

In the New Testament it tells us: When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 

So the practice of hospitality is looking for intentional ways to meet needs—to help people.  And we are to show hospitality not just for strangers but for God’s People—for people here in our church, family or coworkers, or neighbors.

Gateway, that’s been the culture of our community for 26 years. So many of you have had an open-hearted intentionality toward others. You see people standing alone in the lobby, you go meet them, introduce them to your friends, invite them to lunch or into your group – that’s hospitality. You know, the most wide-spread need people have is to just to be included, invited in, accepted and loved. And the reason we’ve seen over so many people come to faith in Christ is because they see God’s heart through you—as you show hospitality.  

Does it cost you something? Yes—it can feel awkward, you might feel rejected, it may cost time. Yet I’ve heard of so many of you, taking people from Gateway into your home to help them through a crisis. 

Does it cost something? Yes! But the end result is that you show love to God as you show hospitality to others, and it builds your network of friends which adds to your life and health too. 

And that’s the other thing about biblical hospitality—it’s not stingy, it’s generous. 

 “Hospitality is … generous….”

It says So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees. – Genesis 18:6-8. 

Notice what it does NOT say.

It doesn’t say, “So Abraham grudgingly plodded off wondering how he was going to share his stuff with interest rates so high and the job market so unsure, and he said ‘Sarah—you know that back-up flour with weevils in it, just use that and bake some bread—they’ll never know.’ Then feeling guilty like he ought to give meat too, Abraham went and found his sickliest cow that he didn’t really want anyway—and offered that to them.”  

No—Abraham was generous—it says he hurried to get the BEST flour, and a Tender calf, and added the delicacy of yogurt and milk, and he served it to the men HIMSELF.  He didn’t get his servant to do it—he did it. Abraham loved to be generous toward others, why?  

Because God had been generous toward him. 

Generosity is a virtuous circle up—when you start being generous toward God (meaning trusting God to keep resupplying as you grow your generosity) you find you are more able to be more generous, and it’s such a life-giving way to live and bless others which blesses you.

Hospitality is generosity toward people—looking for ways to go above and beyond.  Remember what we said at the beginning Hospitality is the answer to the problem of loneliness and isolation.

So let me ask you—what’s your heart like right now?  Is it tightly closed, shut off, worried—or is it opening, increasingly generous with your time, your attention, your money or possessions or home? 

If you will trust God to Practice hospitality, God will grow your heart and your ability to be more hospitable, and you’ll become more like the person God has created you to be.

“…sharing of what you have to offer.”  

Hospitality is not dependent on having a lot—it’s sharing of what you have.  

This reminds me of the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. No one had food left except a little boy—and he only had 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. Not enough for 5000—yet he shared what he had, and the little he had in Jesus’ hands was enough to feed many.  

So the question of hospitality is simply “What do I have to offer that could meet needs around me?”  It may look completely different than you would think.

Jesus invited people—no matter their background—into his community.  

[The Pharisees] asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” – Matthew 9:11 

Jesus knew that what drives many people away from God and into harmful, sinful ways, is a deep need for love, acceptance, validation and worth.  He offered this to those around him.  

Zacchaeus was a thieving tax-collector—like a little notorious cartel boss—yet as Jesus comes to Jericho, he sees Zach’s curiosity and says “Zacchaeus, I want to stay at your house tonight.” 

Jesus offered relationship to those the religious leaders rejected and shunned—and Zacchaeus found faith and changed as a result.

Maybe your neighbors don’t have a lot of financial needs, but what do they need? They often need friends, a listening ear, a community of people who know them, love them, care about them and their family.  

Our church is the perfect community to do that.  Start where you live and work.

Just start where you live, offering hospitality. Each July 4th, we do Church has left the building – Don’t wait to July 4th – just ask “What’s one thing I have to share” Be intentional—set a date, do it, don’t make it perfect, make it happen—and watch how the end result is how fulfilling it is for you.

Communion

We’re going to end today celebrating communion.  

You should have gotten a little cracker and juice on your way in—raise your hand if you need one still. Communion is God’s Hospitality to us—he sets a table before us as a reminder.  

God is Open Hearted toward you—he intentionally came to us as Jesus, generously paid the price to forgive us. 

The Ultimate demonstration of Hospitality. Jesus asked us to remember what he did, as we eat the bread as a reminder of his body broken for you. 

As we drink the cup and remember his blood was shed for you.  So that all who want forgiveness and relationship with God can have it as a free gift. And if you’ve never told God “I want what Jesus did to count for me—I want your forgiveness and leadership.” 

Tell him in your heart, and then celebrate communion with us.  

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