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Radical Hospitality
Matthew 10:40-42, Deuteronomy 10:12-22
By Rev. Frank Schaefer

Matthew 10:40-42

10:40 "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

10:41 Whoever 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;

10:42 and 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."

Deuteronomy 10:12-22

 12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your forefathers who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Today’s theme clearly is hospitality.  In our Matthew passage, Jesus says that if we show hospitality we shall be rewarded.

Here is who we should include on our hospitality list:

Jesus, Jesus’ disciples, prophets, the righteous, and …children.

And the benefits of showing hospitality are . . . . a welcome from God, the reward of a prophet, the reward of righteousness, and perpetual reward (the gift that keeps on giving).

On first blush this seems like a rather random listing of people Jesus includes on his short list.

In context, however, this list of people makes sense.  Jesus shared these words as part of the instructions he gave his disciples before he send them out to minister, giving them authority to heal the sick and to preach the Gospel.

He was preparing them for any and all hostility they were sure to encounter.  Jesus wanted to encourage the disciples not to feel badly when that happened. I cannot shake the feeling though that Jesus was doing more than that. Perhaps Jesus had his future church audience in mind, too, when he shared those words.

This thought came to me first when I noticed that Jesus puts his encouragement into positive terms. He’s not saying: “woe to those who do not receive you.” Instead he said: “Blessed are those who receive me, you, a prophet, the righteous, and even those who receive children in your name, they will not loose their reward.”

Whether Jesus had us in mind or not, this is a perfect hospitality policy for any church.  We are supposed to receive, welcome, entertain, and show hospitality to everybody, from the preacher, to our brothers and sisters in the Lord, down to the smallest child in our congregation.

We are called to be people of hospitality—actually: radical hospitality.  This comes out in the Deuteronomy passage where it even talks about reaching out to aliens.

Of course, the passage is not talking about aliens from outer space, but rather people from other countries, ethnic, racial, religious background. It’s interesting that we refer to people among us who were born in other countries as “aliens.”

And perhaps an alien from another country and an alien from outer space are not that different.  A stranger from abroad may as well be an alien from outer space for all we know about them.

We may not know . . . .

--what they’re really like on the inside, whether we can trust them.

--where they came from; what weird customs they may have

--their parents or any other relatives for a background check

--know what their intentions are

-- know their language. And they may not speak ours that well.

We, the Pennsylvania Dutch, struggle with hospitality to strangers.  And we know it, don’t we?  Someone from this congregation once told me that they had never introduced themselves to their new neighbor for …17 years.  For all he knows, they could have lived next door to Jesus himself all these years and not known it!

I think we all understand this sentiment. It’s is in our human nature to be suspicious of our neighbor rather than welcoming him or her.

Even the church of Jesus Christ has always struggled with welcoming the stranger. There is definitely a tension between “taking care of our own” and reaching out beyond ourselves to care for the rest of God’s own—whoever they are and wherever they may be.

In his book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase said:  “Christian hospitality refers to the active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ.”  (Bishop Robert Schanse, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, p.5)     

Our  Scripture lessons today illustrate how God’s people have

struggled with the whole issue of hospitality – especially radical hospitality to strangers.

In fact, Moses gives us a little history review in our passage. He says:

“What does the Lord require of you? Fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the commandments and his decrees. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

In other words, Moses is saying: remember how it felt to be an outsider, to be the object of prejudice, to be mistreated for who you were. Turn that around now. Love the strangers you encounter. Treat these strangers as you would have hoped to be treated when you were a stranger in Egypt. Show hospitality.

Do you remember when you were a “stranger” or newcomer in this church?

Maybe you are today – we welcome you. Have you recently been a stranger anywhere? School? Workplace? Gym? Senior Center? Youth Group?

What does it feel like to be a newcomer? A stranger? How did the regulars

make you feel? Did you know your way around? Did you know the groups’ inside language? 

Every time we see a newcomer at church, remember what it may feel like for him or her. Reach out with the love of Christ. At youth group, or men’s dinners, or women’s dinners, at Sunday school, church family dinners make it your goal to reach out to those who are on the sidelines, who are new, who don’t know the ropes. Choose to serve. Choose to be hospitable. It’s not as fun as sitting with your buddies. It’s not as comfortable as hanging out with the people you already know. But imagine yourself in the shoes of the newcomer.

And consider the possibilities for your own reward, not just in eternity, but here and now:  who knows, you may make a new friend, perhaps this person you befriend will end up becoming your best friend ever!

Not even to speak of the fact that we might entertain angels unawares.  Hebrews 13:2 says:Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Or think about the disciples that walked down the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They talked to a stranger they met on the way, and invited him to have supper with them. Little did they know that it was Jesus they had invited!

As you go to school or to work or to the grocery store this week, consider who you can reach out to with Christ’s love. Who could you invite to lunch? Who needs help? Who is lonely? Or you may want to make a phone call to someone who has no or few friends.  Let us be people of radical hospitality! Amen.