Saturday, July 21, 2007

The hospital of hospitality

The hospital of hospitality
Grand Sweep Daily Reading: Isaiah 55, 56, 57; Psalm 109

Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!

Isaiah 56:6-7 (NIV)6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant - 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations."

Good morning!

I've been listening to the teaching of Pastor Jim Downing. He is pastor of one of our United Methodist fellowships in Sedalia, Missouri. He has been sharing his faith experience with the Missouri Area School of Lay Speaking in Fayette, Missouri, which is happening this weekend as I write. A gifted teacher and musician, Pastor Jim has opened the Word to all of us in a new and fresh way. How I wish you were here with me to share this incredible experience.

This morning's focus has been on hospitality. I wondered whether I am considered a hospitable person. Am I welcoming to everyone I meet, or do I somehow pick and choose whom I'd rather spend time with. How do you see me? I would welcome your honest input, especially, on a day like today, when I'm wondering how Jesus might see my daily walk.

Jeff and I have made many hospital visits through the years of ministry. We've been blessed to be part of celebrating the birth of a new child, and we've celebrated lives passing from this world into the next. Hospitals are filled with people who are sick and in pain. Many people end up there, not of their own choosing, but because their health has failed them in such a way that they need more care than what they can receive at home. It can be a lonely and scary place to be. Have you ever spent time in the hospital with someone you love? Have you ever been in the hospital, completely dependent upon the caregivers who help sustain your life?

Our churches are hospitals for Jesus Christ. Jesus came for those who were sick, the ones in pain, those who are lost and looking for some direction. People who are starving for a relationship that will satisfy the hunger of the soul - these are the ones Christ came to save. When I began experiencing the power and presence of Jesus in my life each day, I realized, maybe for the very first time, just how sick I had become. I needed a healer to heal me. I needed wholeness and freedom from the sins that were weighing me down. I thank God for the love of Christ and I'm always amazed by His unconditional love for me.

Sometimes when we think of the church, we think of a place - a building or structure, sitting on a plot of land, with a paved parking lot and a cross above the roof. The church is not the building - the church is the people who gather there. The church is the body of Christ, and each and every one who professes faith in Jesus Christ is part of that body. We are not bound by walls or doors; our sanctuaries begin and end in the worship we experience within our heart. We are the hands and feet of Jesus, and everywhere we go, and everyone we greet meets the Lord of life through us.

With that in mind, I ask this question today - are we a living hospital of hospitality? Do we care more for the ones who are hurting than we care for ourselves? How do we reflect the love of Christ in our actions? When people look at me, do they see Jesus in my smile; do they hear Him through the words I speak? Can the see the love of Christ by the things I do, the way I live, by the love I extend?

Radical hospitality begins and ends with the desire to share the love of Christ with all of God's children, not just some of them. We need the desire to love outside of the box, outside the walls of our buildings; outside of the security in our homes. Jesus didn't have a place to lay His head in the three year ministry just prior to his death and resurrection. His home was with God, and He spent many hours in solitude and prayer, finding His shelter and home in the arms of His Father. There is an indescribable pull of the Spirit that calls each one of us into a relationship with the Lord that cannot be found anywhere else. And that is the spirit in which we extend hospitality to the people placed in our path.

Pastor Jim suggested we visualize seeing the hand of Christ reach forth through our extended hand as we welcome the people we meet into relationship with Him. The next time you reach out to shake someone's hand, remember that you are extending more than your own personal greeting. You are part of the body, and He lives and works through you. May your touch be the touch that draws a child into God's loving embrace.

Are we living hospitals of hospitality? What we cannot do on our own steam is possible, through the power of Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Pray for: your life to become a hospital of hospitality. You may have to look no further than extending an outstretched arm to a wayward child or flashing a genuine smile to the stranger stranded on the side of the road. Jesus Christ welcomes you with open arms. He bore your sin upon the cross to bring you home to the One who loves you more than you can even begin to comprehend. With that kind of grace flowing in our hearts, we must give it away. How will you share the love of Christ with others today?