Good morning, I want to welcome everybody. It’s so great to be together, to worship God, together, to fellowship with each other, to gather around singing and to gather around God’s word. My name is Joe Sterns. I’m on the ministry staff with the Broward Church. And today we continue a sermon series called Community and Culture. And today we’re going to be looking at the virtue of hospitality in our community and in our culture. Before we do that, I would like to let you know about our Discovery class.
Now we are starting again with the Discovery class. We took a break from it. But what it is is the Discovery class is a chance for for guests or visitors or even new members of our Church to come to a 40 minutes to 45 minutes discussion and talk about two things your journey of faith, like your walk with God and also to be able to begin to connect more, to have somebody that you can talk with in the Broward Church. And so we do have a lesson.
But the lessons really flexible because we do like people talking about their own journey of faith. And we do welcome questions or give input about the practices and the beliefs of the Broward Church. So we are for the first time going to do this online and live separately. And so it’s going to start next week. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to have an online Zoom discussion at 1030. In other words, after the 09:00 a.m. Service. So any of you who are listening online, if you would like to join us, it doesn’t begin today, starts next week.
Next week, you can find a link at BrowardChurch.Org/COVID-19. Just click on that link and you can join us for a discussion. After the 11:15 for the first time in a year and a half we’re going to begin to have the Discover class live in person over in our kitchen, which is in this wing over here. And so we’re going to take some steps to make it as safe as possible. And I know it’s during lunch time. We’re not going to serve a meal, but we are going to have some bottled water and some package snacks to hold you over for the discussion until you get a chance to get lunch.
We have some volunteers who have helped with it who are going to help with this, but I need a couple more, so I don’t know if you can see this, but if you’re willing to help in particular with the in person discovery class next week, just give me a call or text me at my phone number on the screen here. Now we’re talking about community and culture, and Tony opened it up in the first week, talked about it some where in the second week about this idea of community and consumerism.
And the reason I’m bringing it up is because hospitality is a good contrast to this consumer mentality. And here’s what we looked at. The consumer, quote, unquote Christianity is the attitude. Let me get it up here on the screen. It’s the attitude that we only follow Jesus to receive blessings from Him. Our primary motive is not giving to God, but getting. It’s that attitude of what’s in it for me. In this view, God’s only value to us is what he will do for us. So this is not something we’re promoting.
This is something we’re pushing back against. You know, I have to wrestle with this in my own heart. I’m sure many of you do. And this is very pervasive in the 21st century and has been for two thousand years. The reason you get involved in your faith is you want God to give you things, take care of you, protect you. And it’s missing that selfless loving, selfsacrificial attitude where you value God just for God’s sake. Now, that brings us to hospitality because hospitality. What I put here is that hospitality is an excellent antidote to consumer Christianity.
So this idea of doing things just for yourself. Hospitality is kind of an opposite. As we go through today’s lesson, I hope that you’ll see that as we unpack this. What we’re going to do today in the message is we’re going to look at biblical teaching on hospitality. And then I want to share some examples of hospitality, both in the Bible, which has a lot of examples of hospitality in the Old and the New Testament. And then I want to give you some current 20th 21st century century examples of hospitality that I hope you’ll find informative and inspiring.
Let’s start with some Bible teaching on hospitality. In Romans chapter twelve, verse 13 it says, Share with the Lord’s people who are in need practice hospitality. Did you know hospitality is actually a command? You and I, as believers are commanded, not suggested, but we’re called to practice hospitality. This is expected of us as Christians. Not only that, the more you read the Bible, the more that you see that hospitality is a virtue of the first order in the Scriptures. It’s a very important characteristic of the Christians as something that should be on our heart and in our minds and in our lifestyles.
As we go through this, I want you to ask yourself this question, how is my heart and practice of hospitality? Are they Godly or are they biblical? I hope you’ll challenge yourself. I hope that you’ll find something here that you can grow in maybe repent of I hope our attitude always with the Scriptures, is that we’re willing to take correction, willing to take input, willing to be called higher by the Bible. And I want you to open your heart and not be defensive about hospitality. But say, am I really doing this the way God would like me to do this?
Is that where it’s at? Now let’s talk about and define this word hospitality. Now, in this the word that’s underlined right there, I would like to talk about the Greek word for hospitality and define it. So I am not a Greek scholar, but what I do is I use a Greek English dictionary. They call them lexicons. Many of you are familiar with this, and this is simply cut and pasted out of strong, exhaustive concordance. And I reference that at Biblehub.com
There’s many ways that you can get to great lexicons of Bible Greek translated into English for you. And here’s what it says. It says that this word philoxenion that’s the Greek spelling for it philoxenion is how you would say it is love to strangers and hospitality. Love for strangers. And it’s a compound word. What I mean by that is that it’s made up of two separate Greek words. The first Greek word is philao, which means brotherly love or to love like a brother. And the second word is Xenos, which actually means stranger or immigrant.
And it’s where we get our word Xenophobia, which is fear of strangers or fear of immigrants. And so what these two words combine mean is they mean love of strangers or immigrants. Now, this is a little different than many of you may have thought of for the word hospitality. And that is because if you were to look up hospitality in an English dictionary, it would not say this. Here’s what I did. I cut and pasted out of an English dictionary, and it says the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.
And so the English dictionary does include this idea of strangers, but it sounds like almost an afterthought. And what we usually think of when we think of hospitality is we think of having someone over, usually some that we know I’m making dinner for them, or maybe having someone spend the night in our home. Now, rather than this definition canceling being canceled out by this definition. What we actually see in the Scriptures is that both of these are perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong, and you are practicing hospitality when you have people that you know as well as people that you don’t know come into your home.
Now, although it doesn’t use the word hospitality here, look at how the early Christians lived. It says in Acts Two, they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. And so this idea of having other brothers and sisters into your home, or maybe new guests or acquaintances into your home is perfectly fine as far as an idea, excuse me, for hospitality. You guys like my cup? It says Broward Church on it. Just thought I’d show you that. Now, as we define hospitality, it includes the idea of kindness, helpfulness and generosity, but should include and most importantly, includes food and lodging, food and lodging.
And so, like, if you do an act of kindness for somebody, you may think of that as hospitality. And maybe it has a little bit of the spirit of hospitality in it. But really, when we’re talking about hospitality, it usually involves food and lodging, also helping people with resources that you have, maybe even money and assistance. As we continue in our study of the Bible and what it teaches about hospitality, we’re going to bridge into an example of hospitality in the Old Testament, and it’s set up by a New Testament passage.
And in this passage in Hebrews 13, it says, do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to Angels without knowing it. So what this is referring to is it’s referring to a story in the Old Testament of Abraham and Sarah, the original Jewish couple. Jewish people today are all descended from Abraham and Sarah, and they are the father of not only the Jewish faith but the Christian faith. And so we’re gonna go and we’re gonna look at a story of hospitality found in Genesis 18.
Now, we’re going to read the hospitality part, we’re not going to read the Angels part. And so if you’d like to read in the story where it turns out that the visitors turn out to be Angels, you have to read Genesis chapter 18 and Genesis chapter 19 on your own. I would encourage you to do it. It’s a powerful story, but we’re just going to read for the sake of time the hospitality part. And this is Abraham and Sarah. Genesis 18, verses one through eight. The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day, Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.
When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, If I have found favor in your eyes, my Lord, do not pass your servant by, let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat so you can be refreshed and then going your way now that you have come to your servant. Very well, they answered, do as you say.
Now, I’m going to finish this passage on a third slide. But before we move to that, I just wanted to offer this explanation that it looks like, what Bible scholars have concluded that I’ve read about is that in ancient Middle East, they did not have a well developed hotel system. So if you wanted to go on a journey, they certainly didn’t have Airbnb, did they? So if you wanted to travel, it was a cultural expectation that you could stay in the homes of other people. And if you are in a position where your home big enough and you weren’t so poor that you could host guests people would expect that you would let them stay with them, and they would expect to do the same for you if you travel into their area.
That’s probably why the guests were just standing there rather than walking past Abraham, they probably were expecting that Abraham would welcome them into his home. As we read on it says so, Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. Quick he said, Get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and Bake some bread. Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice tender calf were having veal for dinner and gave it to a servant who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them.
While they ate he stood near them under a tree. I just got to tell you a Bible trivia thing. It looked like that the three seahs of the finest flower was actually about 37 pounds of bread that they were making of flower that they were mixing with water, which is what it means to need it to mix it with water. So that’s plenty of food for these men. I’d like to talk about Abraham’s remarkable hospitality, and the reason I would like to point this out is to challenge all of us, to call us higher as we see what kind of hospitable heart Abraham and his wife Sarah had.
Now, first of all, if you got the impression because he’s sitting in front of a tent that this guy is living in a tent because he cannot afford something better. The story of Abraham does not paint that picture. This is not a guy in low income housing sitting on his front porch. Are you with me? I want you to see the greatness of Abraham, and I think it speaks to his humility and a servant attitude. Now the story of Abraham starts to Genesis chapter twelve, and it goes all the way up to about Genesis chapter 26.
So I’m just gonna pick out a couple of verses in the story of Abraham just to let you know where this guy stood and what kind of person he was in the eyes of his neighbors. So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev with his wife and everything he had and Lot was a relative of his went with him. Abraham had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. So what we see here is that Abraham was not living in a tent because he was poor.
Abraham was living in a tent because he wanted to. His family’s culture had been a nomadic, herding culture. And even though he was a very wealthy man, that’s how he lived. He lived as a Nomad as a saying has gone about Abraham. He was a stranger in a strange land. As it continues in Genesis 13, it says now Lot who was moving about with Abraham also had flocks and herds and tents, but the land could not support them while they stayed together for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together.
So this man is so wealthy now the Negev is a little bit of a desert. But that’s not why they couldn’t stay together, it says right here in the Scriptures, why they couldn’t stay together. They had so many blessings. They had so many livestock and they had so many possessions, they couldn’t even be neighbors. And so they ended up splitting and parting. Look how some of the neighbors of Abraham felt about him.
It said, Well, let me share this with you about his own personal army. When Abram heard that is relative, thats Lot had been captive have been taken captive. He called out 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. This man, Abraham had his own personal army. Not a mercenary army born right in this household. Train in this household. This is the guy who’s running around making huge amounts of flour, serving up yeast to these neighbors. This is a powerful man. The last passage I wanted to read about Abraham is this.
When Abraham’s wife, Sarah passed away, he went to go and buy a funeral plot for her from the Hittites. And it says the Hittites replied to Abraham, sir, listen to us. Here’s how they describe him. You are a mighty Prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead. What is remarkable about Abraham’s hospitality? Look what he did. This powerful man, what did he call his guests? He called them Lord. And he said, I am your servant.
He used this phrase, you’re the Lord. I’m the servant, even though Abraham was a mighty Prince. And aren’t my encouragement to you. One of the things I get out of this. If you are blessed, don’t let that make you prideful. Don’t let that make you arrogant or conceded. I would come into situations of hospitality with great humility and an attitude of service, no matter how important or how wealthy you and I are, that we ought to have this servant attitude. Look at Abraham’s humility. It says that he bowed down to them.
We actually know from before Genesis 18 that Abraham had already turned a hundred years old. So this is a 100 year old man running out to these people, bowing down before them, running into the tent running out to where the livestock work. He must have been doing pretty good for 100 year old man. Look at his generosity and last, but not even remotely the least, look at his excellent service, his excellent service. He was very generous with all that bread and the curds and the milk and a slain animal that they served as veal.
The challenge for us is, how does your hospitality compare with Abraham and Sarah? Do you have that kind of heart, that kind of attitude and those kind of actions where you want to be a servant to people? And that’s why the scriptures in the New Testament have this warning for us. It says, offer hospitality one another without grumbling, without complaining, without murmuring. Each of you should use whatever gift you’ve received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s Grace in his various forms. So the challenge from this passage and from the example that we see in Abraham and Sarah, is this is your hospitality done enthusiastically or grudgingly?
Is it enthusiastic or grudging? Now, I would like to share with you some modern day examples of hospitality, because I think and hope that there will be an inspiration to you that the sacrifice involved in hospitality is worth it. It’s worth it. And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to look at some, like, modern day accounts of hospitality and the first story that I want to share with you. I found out about this week as I was researching and preparing for this. I found out about this woman named Dr.
Rosaria Butterfield. I actually had heard this story years ago and had forgotten about it, but I was reminded of it this week. She said to me, Hospitality is ground zero of the Christian faith. Let me tell you her story. Rosaria got her PhD from Ohio State University, and then she was hired as a professor and eventually a tenured professor at Syracuse University. She began at the age of 28 to practice an openly lesbian lifestyle. She became a gay rights activist, and she found out why she was at Syracuse University that a religious program, a Christian program, was coming to the area of Syracuse called Promise Keepers.
And she wrote a very critical article of Promise Keepers. And she was working on the premise that Christianity is hostile to the gay community, which, by the way, I refute. And I just want to let you know that as a congregation, we’re not hostile to anybody like, we love everyone. And we’ve had many, many people who are homosexual who’ve come into the congregation and become Christians. So I just think her premise is unfounded, but that’s where she was coming from. She’s like, all right, I’m gonna give this group promise Keepers a hard time.
A Minister, a Presbyterian Minister in the Syracuse area, read her op Ed article, and he wrote her letter. He wrote Rosaria a letter and he invited her over for dinner. So Jim and Floyd Smith, this Minister and his wife had Rosaria over for dinner, and she took him up on the offer. What they didn’t know was was that she was going to do an academic paper on the hostility between Christianity and the homosexual community. And so she’s like, oh, these guys are going to be my unpaid research assistants.
As I go there, ask them a bunch of questions and prepare this paper. Well, what happened was she went over for dinner. They did not invite her to Church. They did not study the Bible with her. They had dinner together and they had a wonderful conversation. And then they invited Rosaria over for dinner next week. And the way Rosaria tells it is that she was in their home a minimum of once a week, even more than once a week, often for the next two years without a break, she went over to their home at least every Friday and went from being a stranger who was an acquaintance to becoming very, very close friends with them.
And it changed her idea about how Christianity views society as a whole with all its different segments. And after two years, she became a Christian. And then after she became a Christian, several years later, she married a man. She she with him moved to North Carolina, and her husband, Jim Butterfield, is a Minister in the North Carolina area right now. Now she wrote a book. She’s written several books. This is her Rosaria Butterfield. She wrote a book called The Gospel Comes with House Keys, and I haven’t read this book yet.
I just found out about this again this week, but I’ve actually had this book recommended to me in the past from other people. Look at the power, look at the power of hospitality demonstrated in that story. It reminds me of that scripture inRomans, chapter twelve, or it says, Love must be sincere. You know, if people wonder whether you really have any care for them or not have more for dinner. Like when they see you, spend the time, spend the money, go to the effort of making a meal and focus on them to have great conversation what could be a better testimony of genuine love?
I had my own personal testimony that she reminded me of when I was 18 years old and not a Christian I began to visit a Bible discussion group on the University of Florida campus in the Murphry area in the dormitories. Now the guy who invited me out, his name was Peter Brown. But there was a guy in the Bible discussion group named Richard Watts. I was 18. He was 20. He said, Listen, why don’t you come over to my dorm room and I’ll make you dinner. Now, although I wouldn’t consider that socially awkward, that never happened in the dorms.
Like, I don’t know if any of you ever lived in dorms, like nobody says, come over to my place for dinner like it’s laughable just to think about it.
So the Murphy area was built in the Stone Ages. All right. So the dorm rooms did not have their own little kitchens and stuff. So he had this kind of cooking pot that you could plug into the wall. And he made me a rice casserole that had kind of a tomato sauce base. He put ground beef in it. He cut up some green peppers. The reason I remember 45 years later, what he made me for dinner is that I will just not forget his simple act of kindness.
We just had a normal dinner together. We just had a conversation as two young men on the campus there. But his hospitality was a piece in the puzzle of me becoming a Christian, and I would just never forget it. Now, I believe that hospitality can not only help people to find the genuine love of Christianity and maybe even become Christians. But hospitality, as we already looked at briefly builds our own Church community, it admits us together, stronger and closer. There are so many people that have had me into their homes or I’ve had them, Pam and I have had them into our homes and simply makes us closer. I know that many of you know, Dave and Louisa Soo. Well, Dave and Eloisa really put into practice this idea of hospitality building community when they had us over for dinner one evening a couple of years ago, they wanted to have Pam and I over to talk about raising children because they have a couple of small children, and our children are older. As a matter of fact, now, they’re young adults and they’re out of the house.
So they wanted to build a stronger connection with Pam and I to talk about raising children and to talk about marriage. Every time I see Dave and Eloisa in fellowship, I feel a little bit of a closer connection than other people in the congregation, even though I have a lot of great friendships, legitimate friendships in the congregation. But, you know, and I know when you have somebody over for dinner, there’s another step that happens in the friendship, isn’t there. I know Bill and Rita have had us over for dinner, and that’s made us closer to them on.
I should not have started naming names, but because Marty and La La Mesa, there’s so many, many people where we’ve been into each other’s homes. I bet you that the mature member in this congregation has been at least 50 to 100 other homes of members of this congregation. I know Pam and I have, and this idea of hospitality makes us closer. It builds us into a closer community, and I’d like to speak to leaders just for a second. In the qualifications for an elder, it says now the Overseer is to be above approach, faithful to his wife, temperate, selfcontrolled respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given the drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money and the list of qualifications for leadership has included this word hospitable. Now that’s a command for every Christian. But leaders, if you’re going to lead in the Lord’s Church, whether it’s a small group leadership working with Kingdom kids, if you’re a Deacon, whatever your role of responsibility is, please shine in this area. Don’t do it grudgingly. Do it excellently. It is a call from God for us. Now, the last thing I wanted to talk about might be the 800 pound gorilla in the room. What do you do about hospitality during a pandemic? I know probably some of you were thinking look, I was given this assignment to preach about hospitality during a pandemic. I’m like, what am I going to tell people, you know, to have other people into their homes in a time it’s dangerous and a time where we’re watching out for our health. So I have some ideas for you. They’re just my ideas. I do think where there’s a will, there’s a way. And so I do think in the practice of hospitality, we can find ways to continue this practice and still keep ourselves physically safe.
This is just an idea. Some ideas I had preparing and delivering meals to other people. Now that’s something you can do, even if you feel like it’s not safe for you to have people into your home. Perhaps you could have a meal together outdoors, which I think almost all of us know is a safer environment as far as physical safety during the pandemic rather than indoors. Maybe you could have a picnic together and everybody said 6ft apart or more, you know, but you could meet outdoors.
You could go the extra mile with digital resources. Are you using? Look, I know many of us. We’ve already talked about this. I know many of us are tired of Zoom and other video conferencing or having to call people or having to face time people. I just want to encourage you embrace the hardship rather than running away from it. If we’re going to stay together and keep each other safe. These are tools by the Grace of God. We live in the 21st century. These are tools that we can use.
Let’s use them even if we’ve grown weary and we would rather see people face to face if you need to use them, let’s use them enthusiastically. And also there are volunteer organizations like Lifenet like Feeding the Poor. There’s different organizations in town that are taking steps to make sure they’re volunteers are as safe as possible. That may be a way that you can reach out and help and be hospitable even in these challenging times. And I do want to challenge all of us as well as myself with this.
The commands of God are still in effect, even during a pandemic. It’s just that the methodology may need adjusting, so please don’t let your hospitality go dormant during this time. You just may need to have come up with good ideas and ways that you can practice hospitality where we adjust to the circumstances we’re in. And I wanted to give you one last story, a one last example of hospitality. And the reason I’m giving this is it’s an example of hospitality during the pandemic. Some of you may know Chase and Gina Lawrence.
They’re a wonderful couple. Gina was baptized here in the Church two years ago 2019, and last April last year, Chase Lawrence joined her in the faith as being a baptized disciple. Also, they lived nearby in an apartment complex in Davy. They really put this scripture into practice. It says a generous person will prosper whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Gina and Chase had a next door neighbor who is only an acquaintance. You know how it is when we live together. People don’t build friendships with their neighbors as much as we used to.
I know some of you are the exceptions, and maybe some of you have good friendships with your neighbors. But in many settings, people just see each other. They wave at each other, and you might at best be an acquaintance. Well, that was the case with Jason, Gina and a neighbor of theirs named Frank. Now Frank is a much older gentleman. He’s a Cuban gentleman. And this year his wife passed away. And so Gina came out to the parking lot of the apartment complex, and she saw saw Frank, and she said, hey, I heard that your wife passed away, and I just wanted you to know that Chase and I give our deepest sympathies our deepest condolences.
And right there in the parking lot, this older made just broke into tears and started weeping in front of her. But so Gina stopped because she was gonna get in her car and run an errand. And she just stopped. And they talked for a little while. And as their conversation went, she found out that Frank had a favorite Cuban restaurant down in Dade County that he recommended to her and to Chase. He’s like, this is a great place. You and your husband should get out for a date some time and go to this place.
And he went out and brought her a menu and on the menu he had highlighted in yellow his favorite foods to recommend to her. So he gave her the menu and goes, These are some of their great dishes. Go there. So unknown to him, Chase and Gina decided to drive down to Dade County and buy some of his favorite items and bring them up to him as a comfort in his loss, and then went down and brought some of his favorite dishes more than he could have in one meal.
They brought him quite a bit of food from that restaurant down in Dade and gave it to him, and he was deeply, deeply moved by their hospitable consideration in his loss. And now he’s no longer an acquaintance of their there’s. He’s a close friend of theirs. And I just really think that in these relatively young Christians, they’ve given us an example that’s an upward call of making the most of every opportunity in being hospitable. So in conclusion, I just want to point out that hospitality is a great antidote for this idea of Christian consumerism, because it pushes back against this idea of what’s in it for me.
And it flips it. And it’s more like, how can I help you? How can I serve you? How can I come closer to you? And I just hope that we will have these hearts of being generous with our time, with our money, with our food, with our lodging, with our focus rather than it being on ourselves and our needs and our concerns, focusing on others, having a spirit of self sacrifice and of genuine concern for other people. Right now we’re going to go into the Lord’s Supper.
And I just wanted to point out that there’s a type of hospitality that Jesus extended and what He’s accomplished with us. Listen to this about food and lodging. In John chapter six, Jesus said, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger. And he who believes in me will never thirst. And in John 14, Jesus says, in my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and receive you to myself that where I am, there you may be also. I’m gonna say a prayer we’ll share the Lord Supper together. Let’s pray together, father, we praise you, that you have been hospitable first to us. Help us to have the kind of heart that you have to have the kind of heart, Father, that your son had. That you give us what we need, that you meet us where we’re at, Father, and please help us have a spirit of gratefulness and a spirit of imitation. As we remember what was accomplished on the cross by your son.
We love you and praying your son’s name. Amen.