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PLEBS 3 EAT
April 3, 2017
Eat! (PLEBS 3) (SLIDE) The trouble with the world today, it seems to me, Is coffee in a cardboard cup. The trouble with the helter-skelter life we lead Is coffee in a cardboard cup. The trouble with the world today is plain to see, Is everything is hurry up. It's rush it through, and don't be slow, And BLT on rye to go, There's ready-wear, and instant tea, And minute rice, and my oh me, It's all become looney tunes With sugar packs and plastic spoons And coffee in a cardboard cup. It may have been written 50 years ago, but the words of the song still ring true, don’t they? Life for many people today is rush, rush, rush. It’s coffee in a cardboard cup. 60 years ago the average time spent around the dinner table was 90 minutes. Today it is less than 12. So what is so important about eating and drinking together? What is so important about drinking coffee in a ‘china’ cup? Well Friends, there is something deeply spiritual about spending time eating and drinking together. Page 1 of 15 (SLIDE) Don Gibbons was a missionary in Papua, Indonesia. Every day he came into a village and tried to gather the people to preach the good news. But not many of the villagers would listen. In fact most paid - no attention at all. This went on for months and months. Until Gibbons noticed something. He noticed that every time the chief of the tribe wanted to speak to the crowd or announce some news, the chief would stand and speak around the smoke pit where they cooked yams for hours and hours. The people would gather around the fire and eat yams as they listened to their leader speak. This got Gibbons thinking. What if he did the same thing? So he gathered up some yams and had them prepared around the fire. And over the next few days as the villagers gathered together for a meal, around the smoke pit, as they listened to the gospel and their hearts began to change. And it wasn’t long before the chief himself turned to Jesus and called for the destruction of all their idols. Friends, there is something deeply spiritual about spending time eating and drinking together. Page 2 of 15 (SLIDE) And as we read the Gospels we find that eating and drinking, accepting and giving hospitality, is central to Jesus and his ministry. And Jesus is willing to accept hospitality from a very wide range of people. He went to parties with “bad people.” We tend to be picky who we eat with but not Jesus. He didn’t seem to care who he has over for dinner. So much so that in Matthew 9, the Pharisees tackle Jesus’ disciples about this. They ask, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus’ response? “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” It is by eating and drinking with sinners, with the unhealthy, that they are able to be transformed and become well. Page 3 of 15 Remember Zaccheaus? (Luke 19) Zaccheaus was a rich tax collector who really wanted to find out about Jesus. But he was only a small man and he had no chance of seeing Jesus when he passed by, because the crowd was so large. So what does he do? He climbs a tree! He is so eager to meet Jesus that he climbs a tree. And when Jesus reaches the spot where he is in the tree, Jesus says, “Zaccheaus, come down immediately, I must stay at your house today.” Jesus wasn’t shy in inviting himself over to someone's place for dinner! Zaccheaus hops down and welcomes him gladly. And it is over the course of that meal, in the midst of the eating and drinking, and the experience of hospitality, that Zaccheaus comes to a point of incredible repentance. He says, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8) Spending time over dinner with Jesus radically alters the course of his life. It’s by spending time eating and drinking with Jesus, that Zaccheaus’ heart changes, and he gives himself to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost. There is something deeply spiritual about spending time eating and drinking together. Page 4 of 15 (SLIDE) And the early church realised this. We read, in the very first description of the early church in Acts 2:42, 46-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. This priority of eating and drinking together, of giving and receiving hospitality, has been there since day 1 of the church. The believers met together in the temple. They met together in their homes. And breaking bread was a core activity in their meeting together. In fact, hospitality was seen as so important that in order to qualify to be an elder, an overseer in the early church, you had to be known as someone who was hospitable. 1 Timothy 3:2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. Titus 1:8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is selfcontrolled, upright, holy and disciplined. Church leaders had to model hospitality in their own lives. Page 5 of 15 (SLIDE) And time and again, the Apostles urges the believers to be hospitable to one another within the church Paul says in Romans 12:13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ‘Practice hospitality’ literally means “pursue hospitality” . In other words, be constant in opening your home and life to others. Not once a year! at Christmas . Make it a habit! Make it part of your life. Peter puts it like this in 1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. No grumbling, Peter says, Why does he say that? Well probably because hospitality can be hard work! Extra dishes Extra bedding Extra bother He says, offer hospitality with the right attitude. Let your hospitality overflow from love. Offering hospitality within the church is part and parcel of church life. Page 6 of 15 (SLIDE) But hospitality doesn’t stop within the church community. The author to the Hebrews encourages us to share life and hospitality together, not just with fellow believers but with strangers and those who do not know Jesus. Hebrews 13:1-2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. The New Testament word that we translate “hospitality” comes from the Greek word philozenia which comes from a compound of 2 words: “love” (philos) and “stranger” (zenia). Hospitality has its origin, literally, in a love for strangers. Hospitality is not just for friends, for fellow believers, but also for strangers. Page 7 of 15 Jesus makes this point so beautifully well in Luke 14:12-14 Jesus said: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This is a radical thing to say! Jesus is saying to the host: “Don’t invite people who like you and will give you something in return. Don’t invite your friends, and family and rich neighbours,. because they might invite you back and you might have an awesome of a time at their place! and that would be terrible wouldn’t it?!” Don’t show hospitality towards someone expecting to receive it back again.” Jesus is explaining the difference between hospitality and entertaining. He is showing the difference between blessing and impressing. And I’ve certainly found Jesus’ teaching to be true. When we've had people over to dinner it’s often been those times, when the person has been a relative stranger or has little to offer us, that something deeply spiritual has taken place. Page 8 of 15 (SLIDE) There is something deeply spiritual about spending time eating and drinking together. And the Lord encourages us in his word to show hospitality both to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to those in the family of faith and also to strangers, to those who do not know Christ. But how? How are we to practice hospitality? Well all of us have different abilities and opportunities to offer hospitality to others. We will all do it in different ways. There is not a once-size fits all. When Lisa and I were in Geelong, in our first year there we had over 200 people to our home for meals. It was an amazing time for hospitality. It was a beautiful time of getting to know people, sharing life with people, and big things happened as a result. But we’ve never been able to repeat that since. One person in this church that has a passion for hospitality is Beryl. If you know Beryl, you will have no doubt experienced it. But it hasn’t always been easy for her. She’s had to change the how of hospitality many times in her life. Page 9 of 15 This is what she says. “I was never very domestic. The kitchen was never the place of my creativity or joy. I was always more interested in people than cooking, but because I was interested in people, I could see the point and the power of sharing food and conversation. In my dazzling youth I remember cooking for the occasional camps of 100 plus adults, even using recalcitrant wood stoves… but the ride has been downhill ever since.” “First it dropped to cooking for connect group size. When I had a young family in Melbourne I cooked every week for 12 people in our connect group. There was a richness of community and support that happened over that weekly meal that was powerful and life-changing. But the meal was simple. The majority of those meals were a ‘one dish’ meal like a minestrone that I could cook the day before which made the serving simple. As each member finished work and arrived, they simply served themselves and joined the table.” “Then when we moved to Tassie, the shape of hospitality changed again. One of my passions was helping new people and especially families connect into a kingdom community. I might have been a little older than these families but I tried to do my bit to make their connections into the church family more possible. In that era we had a pool, so during the January holidays I would often invite one of the established St Clements families plus two newish families to lunch around our pool and a swim. I was always a firm believer that the best way to multiply connections was to connect new people to other people who were newish. My idea was that the kids could get to know each other and have fun trying to drown each other while the adults watched and chattered. Again I tried to choose food that was cold and simple but I still had occasional melt downs of incompetence as I was trying to be the pool cleaner, the caterer, the life saver and the supporter of conversations. Dessert was always just ice cream in a cone but I was known to even forget to offer that.” Page 10 of 15 “Eventually juggling all that also got too hard, and it was time to change again. I then tried inviting two newish families with young kids to the train park and to simply buy a hamper of picnic goodies so I could spoil them and they didn’t have to think about food, and I helped supervise their kids a bit while both kids and the parents got to know each other.” “After my husband Allan died, I found some forms of hospitality even harder. Up until 18 months ago I was still trying to run the simplest forms of welcome lunches using the microwave and bought soups… but in the end I knew it had got to the stage when I needed to hand the baton of welcome lunches on to a fresh wave of you to think up your own shapes. So my cooking days are over now but I am still interested in people so modest hospitality has had to be reinvented yet again. Now instead of cooking I take people out to dinner, or we walk and talk & then share a cup of coffee.” “I am also part of a group of delightful ladies, many of whom live alone and would not do this on their own, but together host monthly afternoon teas. We invite newish ladies from the congregation to come and have a better chance to get to know other women from this congregation. These ladies chuckle with me because when it is my turn to have the afternoon tea at my place, I have zero shame that there is now not a single home cooked item on the table.” “I also have another informal partnership with Wendy and Bruce Elliott who joined us in the last couple of years when retired to Hobart. They had only been in our congregation only about 8 months when together we worked out a very one sided partnership that works brilliantly. They knew I could no longer do the welcome lunches I had done for years, so they now cook and host wonderful monthly welcome lunches, and I still have some minor roles with funds and because they were new, I had the role of approaching and gathering the people for each monthly lunch. They do it fabulously and the Elliott’s themselves told me that as relative newcomers themselves, doing this has helped them get to know far more people. In fact they use words like calling it their ‘passion’, and so ‘blessed’ and ‘’encouraged and enriched as people share their lives in a way that often can’t happen on Sunday mornings.“ Page 11 of 15 What an inspiration -hey?! What I love about Beryl’s story is that it shows us so clearly, that hospitality is not a one-size, fits all. Beryl has had to change the shape of her hospitality many, many times. No matter what circumstance we are in, hospitality is something we can all be part of. It doesn’t matter if you re: married or single, with kids or without, younger or older, there is an opportunity for all of us to be involved in this ministry of hospitality. whether we are serving a 3 course meal, or going out for a coffee at Beachfront 32. Page 12 of 15 There are any number of barriers to hospitality. We can easily find excuses. Like “my house is too messy!” or “I can’t cook!” or “I’m not a great conversationalist.” or “I don’t drink coffee.” But of course there are some pretty simple answers to those excuses. If your house is too messy, then meet at the park or the coffee shop! If you can’t cook, then order Pizza! If you are not a great conversationalist, then invite others who are! If you don’t drink coffee, then… actually that is a problem. I can’t help you there. Maybe drink tea?! However we do it, we need to find ways to open our lives and our homes to others. Page 13 of 15 Jesus commanded us to “go make disciples”. and so much discipleship happens over hospitality. Who could you be hospitable to this month? Perhaps someone from church? Maybe someone from school or work? Maybe a neighbour? Open your heart and life to others. Friends, our God is a hospitable God. When Jesus was accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners, he told the story of the prodigal son. A man who told his father than he wanted his inheritance early, who wished his father dead and then went away and squandered all the money in wild parties and luxury. Finally the money run out and the son was destitute, and returned home tail between his legs. But his father was not angry. When he saw his son, even in the distance, he ran out to greet him. He celebrated that his lost son was now found. He takes off his ring and places it on his son’s finger. He kills the fattened calf. He says, “This is my lost son who has been found. How can I not celebrate?” Friends, our God is a hospitable God. When we were far off from him, he welcomed us home in his son Jesus. Page 14 of 15 If you are here today and you don’t know the love of the father, then come and receive his hospitality, his love. Our God is a hospitable God. He loves to welcome us home and accept us in his Son Jesus Christ. And he calls us, in turn, to be hospitable to others. He calls us to open up our hearts and our homes to others. If God has shown us his open love, then how can we not show love and hospitality to others?