Sermon for 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Year
C Based on Lk. 10:1-11, 16-20
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Sermon for 5th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Based on Lk. 10:1-11, 16-20
Our gospel today tells us how important hospitality is for those who call themselves Christians. We are instructed to welcome, befriend, receive and accept God’s people. If we don’t, we bring judgment upon ourselves, because to reject God’s people is to reject God’s realm, God’s word and ultimately, it is to reject Jesus Christ himself. “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Our hospitality, or lack of it toward others is really an indication of our hospitality or lack of it toward Jesus himself. The following stories of hospitality are examples for us, which we can all learn from.
The Clarks were the first black family to move into an all-white neighborhood. Before moving they made an inspection trip to their property. They saw a few of their future neighbors, but none of them spoke, and their indirect glances were less than friendly.
With doubt in their hearts they moved on a Saturday. They arrived before the moving van and began to unload the car. Almost immediately a teenager appeared from next door. “Hi, I’m Ted Davis,” he said. “Welcome to our neighborhood. Here, let me help.” Not waiting for an answer, he picked up two heavy boxes.
Not long after, his mother came to the door with a pot of coffee, some cold drinks, and doughnuts on a tray. In the center of the tray was a vase with two lovely roses.
“Welcome,” she said. “I’m Cora Davis, your corner neighbor. I didn’t know if your utilities had been turned on, and I thought a cup of coffee might get you off to a better start.”
Later the youngest Davis teenager came over and introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Donna Davis. Mother said I should bring your little ones over to our house. Moving is bad enough without children under your feet.”
Their friendship has continued to grow. No matter where they go, they will never forget the Christian hospitality of that mother and her children who acted instead of just talking about it.” 1
As Christians, we are instructed to have the hospitality of the Davis family. The newcomer, the visitor, the person who is different than us in whatever ways, are waiting to be welcomed by us.
Grandmother lived far away from her family, but she wrote often and told them how much she liked where she lived. She wrote many times about her friendly neighbors, and how kind they were to her. Every Sunday she prepared a dinner for them, she said, because it made her feel like they were her children.
A month passed and her family did not hear from grandmother. Then one morning a letter arrived saying she was moving to a new house on a new street. She explained she had to move because her old house needed repairing, and she could find no one to do it for her.
The next letter sadly reported she had thought her old friends would come to visit her, but not one had come, even once. As time went by grandmother wrote less and less.
Another month passed without a word from her. Worried, her family decided to visit her. As they started out the door, the mail carrier arrived with a special delivery letter from grandmother. “I am the happiest person alive. I have just learned why my friends never came to see me. They have all been too busy fixing up my old house, so we can all be together again for our ‘delicious Sunday dinners.’” 2
Like the grandmother, we too are called to invite others into our homes. If we went through our church directories and made a concerted effort to invite one different household every month into our homes, this congregation would experience the rich blessings of hospitality. A starting point for this would be to invite members of the congregation whom you don’t know very well first. As you old adage goes: “There are no strangers, only friends whom we haven’t met yet.”
A dusty traveler walked up the steps of a small, neatly kept farmhouse. “Hello, what do you want?” The stranger answered with only this question “Does God live here?” The woman was startled. She thought she might have misunderstood. Once again she asked: What is it that you want?” The tired-looking man’s reply was the same: “Does God live here?” With that, the woman slammed the door shut in the visitor’s face and ran out to the back of the house to see her husband.
He became incensed when he heard of the stranger’s question. “Didn’t you tell him we attend church without fail every Sunday?” “That wasn’t what he asked, John,” she replied; “he asked, ‘Does God live here?’” “Well, didn’t you tell him that you are active in the women’s group, while I’ve been a elder for a number of years?” “That wasn’t what he asked, John. He asked, ‘Does God live here?’” So they talked the matter over. And finally they came to a conclusion. It was a sad one. They decided that God did not live there! 3
What about us in this congregation? Does God live here? Does God live in our hearts, our lives, our homes? Do we offer Christian hospitality to our visitors, or our new members, or non-members in the community?
According to a Canada Lutheran article, Lutheran congregations in Canada today that are healthy and growing are the ones that actively involve themselves in Christian hospitality and friendship. The article stated that the majority of new people coming to church are those who have been invited by their friends or relatives to come with them. Have you offered or invited to bring a friend or relative to church with you lately? If not, why not give it a try?
Another important factor contributing to the health and growth of these congregations is that whenever a visitor or a new member shows up at church, a member of the congregation sits with them during worship; helps them follow the liturgy if they need help; and after worship, invites the visitor or new member to join them for lunch. This sort of hospitality and friendliness establishes a basis whereby future contacts can be made and relationships can grow and mature.
Does God live here? Is our congregation friendly and actively involved in Christian hospitality? Do we welcome, receive and accept others as we would Jesus himself? That’s the question each one of is confronted with in today’s gospel. If we are not, then may we be inspired by the good news of our gospel to indeed welcome, offer, and practice hospitality to others as if they were Jesus himself.
1 Cited from: A. Dudley Dennison, Jr., Contemporary Illustrations for Speakers & Teachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), pp. 34-35.
2 Ibid., pp. 83-84.