Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: A Hospitable Life

Picture a kitchen table.

It doesn't have to be fancy or elaborate.  Four legs and a top.  That's all you need.  Some of the most life-changing, world-altering encounters and conversations have transpired around a simple table.

The table is powerful.

Yesterday, we continued our series "A Different Kind of Life" by talking about hospitality.  For many people, hospitality is a struggle.  For one thing, genuine, Biblically-defined hospitality always involves the love of strangers, and even enemies.  But this concept is also a struggle because in our culture, we too often confuse "hospitality" with "entertainment."  The real question of hospitality isn't whether the table linens match or if the event schedule is off.  Want to know if you are truly hospitable?  Ask yourself one simple question:

Do people feel welcome and wanted when they are in your company?  

That's it!  Are people happy to be around you?  In your presence?  In your home?

Another way of asking it is this:  What do people experience at your table?  As followers of Jesus, nothing embodies this call to love and serve others more than a story about a wedding feast in John 2.  And when we look at this story and the miracle it contains, we see four things hospitality does.

Hospitality fosters community.  Yesterday, we saw that Jesus was invited to a wedding at Cana.  This means someone at the party knew him, and liked Him!  That is the kind of community that leads to people finding Jesus.  No matter how doctrinally sound you are, or how much of the Bible you have memorized, you will never get to truly share your faith with anybody if they don't like you.

But when others feel at ease in your presence, and enjoy your company, powerful spiritual conversations can occur!  When you focus on welcoming others and loving them no matter who they are; when you focus on their happiness and comfort--you are creating the very kind of community that can open those doors to share Christ.

Hospitality serves a need.  For us, running out of wine (or anything else for that matter) isn't such a big deal.  You head around the corner and you pick more up.  But in the 1st century, when you're out, you're out!  And when you're out at a Jewish wedding, its humiliating.

In Jewish thought, wine is always associated with joy.  The Rabbis even had a saying that "without wine there is no joy."  And out of this embarrassing crisis John paints a deep, spiritual lesson for us.  Apart from Jesus, there can be joy in your marriage, or in a wedding or other celebration.  But good times that are nothing more than good times will eventually run out.  If we want unlimited joy, we need the presence and power of Jesus.  And that is just what we witness in this story.  The deepest need at this party could only be met by Jesus.  Likewise, our deepest needs, and those of our neighbors, can only be met by the presence and power of Jesus.

Hospitality brings joy to others.  When you take the facts of this story into account and do the math, you come to the conclusion that Jesus miraculously produced between 110 and 180 gallons of wine.  That's a lot of wine!  And that's the point; that the problem Jesus is solving is a shortage of something associated with joy and hospitality, and it is His presence that provides a joy and gladness of welcoming that will never, ever run out.

When we demonstrate Christ-centered hospitality toward others, both the quality and quantity of joy goes up.  They have never felt more loved, more welcomed, or more valued then they do when they are in your presence.

Hospitality mirrors the character of God.  This entire scenario did what any genuine, Christ-centered demonstration of hospitality should do: it brought great glory to Jesus.

Again, the table is a powerful thing, especially when those tending that table are followers of Jesus.  Because when you and I put our focus on another--when we welcome the stranger to our table--we are doing what Jesus did when He invited us to commune with Him.  Remember, we were strangers to His table, and had no business sitting at His table.  But he invited us anyway, just as he invited Zacchaeus, the tax cheat, to dine with him and it changed that man's life, and he paid back everything he had stolen with interest! (Luke 19:1-10)  Being hospitable mirrors God's character, and it can produce miraculous results.

What about you?  Who is your Zacchaeus?  Who is that person at work?  At school?  Who is that person in your community that no one wants to be around?  Who is that group that is held at arms' length that YOU need to be rubbing shoulders with?  Make the time to get out of the "holy huddle" with your Christian friends, and welcome a stranger.  Focus on the other.  And watch the power of the table as you mirror the character of God by bringing unlimited joy to the lives of others!

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